Caradh facing last chance at place at Tokyo

by Dave Donnelly

Terenure Karate champion Caradh O’Donovan has her sights set on a Tokyo Olympic berth after recovering from a nasty injury that threatened to end her career.

She has just returned from France, where she took part in a four-day training camp ahead of May’s last-chance qualifying.

35-year-old O’Donovan needs to finish in the top three at the event in Paris in order to make the finals, having missed out most of the ranking events due to her injury.

“I’m going to go for it. It’s a very long shot now,” O’Donovan tells Dublin Gazette.

“We have two different ways to qualify. One was through your world ranking, and that opportunity is completely gone, which would have been the easiest way to qualify.

“In my weight category, you have to be top four in the world. But because I missed out on all the events in the Olympic ranking window, that’s not going to happen.

“There’s one last chance and that’s the world qualification event in May, which gives me another four months to prepare.

“But I’m relying on things to go perfectly – I have to get top three in that event to qualify. But I’m going to give it my best shot.

“I know enough to know it’s a long shot but I’m prepared to give it my best.”

Laid low by injury, O’Donovan hasn’t been prepared to keep her head down, however, and she’s been a vocal activist in support of athlete welfare.

The political struggle in Irish karate, which has seen the governance of the sport split into two organisations, with the recognised Karate Ireland ONAKAI in opposition to the new ONAKAI.

O’Donovan has stayed allied with the former and has been subject to sustained abuse from certain quarters, including match officials, as a result of her decision to stick with the organisation.

“I got involved in a group called Global Athlete – they’re relatively new but when all this kicked off in Irish Karate they helped us out.

“That has given me more of an interest in speaking out about athlete welfare. There are a lot of issues we don’t hear more about because in my experience when you speak up, you get punished.

“The media do so much to highlight issues in sport, but athletes are starting to do their own bit and speak up more.

“It’s almost contagious, when you see people speaking up you feel like you can do it too. Maybe I’m naïve to think that will happen.

“From what I’ve seen over the last year, there are more athletes willing to stick their neck out and say things that won’t be popular.

“You won’t get a pat on the back – I still get told all the time ‘don’t say that, don’t put that out, it’s bad optics.’ But I don’t care.

“Whether it’s racism or anti-doping issues or athlete welfare, the more we speak about anything, it’s the only way it’s going to change.”

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