John Eves recounts Síofra Cléirigh Büttner's recent Tokyo Olympics experience
MOST of us probably imagine that securing a place on an Olympic team would be an occasion marked by much fanfare, marching bands and general hype. For Síofra, it was a semi-official post on Twitter and an email asking "Eh, what's your tracksuit size there?" A slight exaggeration but not by much. A confluence of factors did make the announcement of the final Olympic team a bit more garbled than expected. Readers might recall the smash hit of the "World Athletics Rankings" (difficult second album coming at you in 2022...). This bureaucratic quagmire conveniently remained open for 3 days after the conclusion of the National Championships, so whilst Síofra's place in Tokyo was all but guaranteed with her second-place finish at the Nationals, it was still a case of don't count your chickens. Though unrelated to the women's 800m team, rumours swirled of appeals regarding selection, counter appeals, various governing bodies at loggerheads, all of which left our yet-to-be-named-Olympian playing a protracted game of tedium. A week of thumb twiddling was ended with the apocryphal tweet of confirmation on 6th July which finally allowed Síofra to divide her life between the days before she was an Olympian and those after.
Making Dublin her base between Nationals and travelling to the pre-Olympic camp in Fukuroi, Japan, Síofra logged a couple of good weeks training, with one final tune up race in France on 11th July.
Following a warmly received visit to Club training, Síofra set off with her Olympic team mates on 15th July to put the finishing touches to her preparation. Save for those competing in the first days of the Olympics, all members of the Irish team were stationed in Fukuroi.
Needless to say, all Covid safety protocols dominated daily life. Despite tests every morning, masks on at all times indoors, time in the camp passed quickly before departure to Tokyo three days prior to the heats of the 800.
A happy coincidence with arrival into the Olympic village was greeting the medal winning rowers back from their exploits. As you can imagine, there was a great buzz in the Irish team and excitement was building for the start of the Track & Field (which we all know is when the Olympics really do begin...).
An early morning heat necessitated an early alarm call. Multiple call rooms prior to being brought to the track, standard protocol for a competition at this level. Approximately 10 minutes before her heat, Síofra was let loose on the hallowed tartan of the Tokyo Olympic track. Starting from lane 8, the qualification for the next round was cutthroat. Top three in each heat gained automatic qualification. As we watched on from the depths of night on this side of the world, Síofra competed hard as she always does, but alas qualification was not to be.
With the business of the trip concluded, Síofra got three days after he event to soak up everything the Olympic village could offer. Covid rules meant all competitors were confined to the village unless they were competing or spectating at their sport. So, for that brief 72 hours, Síofra became that rarest of beings, a spectator at the Tokyo Olympics.
From there it was back to Dublin, from the longest build up to the Olympic games, it was all over in a flash. With a competitive season that had stretched from February, and a training cycle pushing close to 12 months, a break was in order. Síofra took some time with her family and friends at home, before returning to the US to catch up with her teammates and enjoy all that life has to offer away from training.
Now back in base training, with altitude camps and long miles to log, Síofra's next goal will be the World Indoors in early 2022, before a busy summer with European and World Championships to aim for.
The show must go on...