Sitting in Eden for a 10am coffee one morning, Ciara Neville has already been to a yoga session and track training as everyone else’s day was just kicking off.
When you are on the cusp of success in professional sport, commitment is what it is all about.
Ciara Neville is committed.
“I have missed birthday parties and big celebrations with my friends – going out at the weekend and things like that, but I don’t look at it as anything else other than an investment in my future. I want to be a fulltime athlete at the end of this and there is only one way to do that. You have to go all in.
“I have been training in UL since I was six or seven years old and it is all I ever wanted to do.
“To be honest, I just went down to UL with my friend’s mom one day and we were messing about trying to keep up with the older ones and it ended up that I joined Emerald AC and I have been there ever since,” she adds.
Even her CAO applications were focused on going to UL and to stay on the track that she has known since she was child.
“I didn’t want to leave home and I didn’t want to leave the track or my coach so I pretty much put my focus on staying here so that I could take my sports career to the next level.”
Ciara’s lectures, as she says, “are just 300m away from where I live on campus and the track is literally outside my door. And when mom misses me from home, she drops over some cooked dinners.”
Specialising in 100m and 200m, Ciara also runs 60m indoor, but there is a top 56 ranking goal for the sprinter from Monaleen – and with it, a place at the Tokyo Olympics this summer. That’s where she wants to take it to the next level.
Studying Sports and Exercise Science, Ciara has spent two years at UL perfecting her ability to run fast, to study and to be an Olympian in waiting.
Dedication, commitment and regime are just some of the things that go with being a professional athlete, and Ciara is living that life in preparation. 3,000 calories daily, six track sessions per week, evening workshops, two yoga and two gym sessions all make up the routine for the athlete – but she doesn’t see it as a sacrifice.
I live in an athlete’s house on campus and it is great to have access to all these facilities. It has really made the difference and getting a scholarship really helped.
“Living with likeminded people is a bonus as we all keep ourselves on the straight and narrow.
“We also partake in the workshops that are provided – three or four each semester - and that gives me an insight into things like psychology and nutrition.”
All of this goes hand in hand with her track training, which varies depending on the time of year.
Winter training is all about fitness with longer distances covered while spring training is more geared towards competition.
And competition is where Ciara is set to soar as a rising star.
Qualification for the World Indoor finals in China is the short term goal and leading at the National Championships will secure that for Ciara, but the long term goal is to go back to the Far East for the Olympics this Summer.
“I qualified for the World Championships two years ago and the times are the same over 60m. That’s also my personal best so if I can equal that or get a new PB I’ll hopefully be on the plane,” she says.
In 2018, athletes began their quest to qualify for the Olympics and Ciara has until the end of June to run 100m in 11.15secs or get herself into the top 56 ranked female athletes.
As the country’s number one ranked sprinter, Ciara wants to achieve both Olympic qualification standards and really make a claim for herself.
“There is no point in going if you can’t run the time,” she says.
As an Olympian in waiting, Ciara links her continued success to her being at UL.
I have been walking around this campus since I was a child and I know where everything is. That alone gives me the ability to focus on everything that I need to do and that is probably the best thing about being here.
“It’s a year-round commitment as we race from January to March and then we are straight back in to training before we go back racing from May to August.”
Three weeks off before heading back to college and it all starts again.
But Ciara says that she wouldn’t change it for the world.
- Andrew Carey