Sonia O'Sullivan has been honoured with induction into the Wall of Fame of the Penn Relays, the oldest and largest track and field event in the world.
The carnival in Philadelphia has taken place since 1895, and attracts around 15,000 athletes and thousands more fans (the largest attendance on record took place in 2010, when 54,000 people came to see Usain Bolt run). O'Sullivan's name will now be etched into the wall in the Franklin Field stadium, the oldest football stadium still used in the US. Also honoured this year are Yohan Blake, second-fastest man in the world behind Usain Bolt, and Tanya Hughes, who still holds the Penn Relays record for the high jump 33 years later.
Induction into the Wall of Fame is based solely on performance at the Penn Relays, not the later careers of athletes. O'Sullivan was honoured for her remarkable career running for Villanova University at the relays, in which she won gold 6 times: 2 each in the 4x800m, 4x1,500m, and the distance medley, in 1990 setting world records in the latter two which would stand for 17 and 18 years respectively.
In an article for the Irish Times, O'Sullivan reflected on the experience of watching Villanova, a school with strong Irish connections which holds the most victories of any school at the Relays, race once more:
"I feel a bit like it is Cheltenham with lots of Irish winners and connections bobbing up across the three days of intense racing...I can remember studying the programme each year at Villanova, looking back at the records and past winners and only dreaming of getting out there and leaving my own mark on a track that continues to deliver storybook races every year.
"The history is what drives the Penn Relays to deliver every year, a carnival to remember and inspire the true competitive spirit of sport and athletics."