Caroline Kearney - The Triathlete
Caroline was regarded by most in the sport as a certainty for the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008 and indeed London 2012. This would have made her the first triathlete to represent Ireland in the sport at the Olympic Games.
With that ambition and her focus firmly fixed on the prize, Caroline had a system in place from 2005 to help her achieve this goal and had only recently arrived in San Raphael near Nice to take up training with Montpellier Triathlon Team with whom she competed. It was near this village, on the coast road where a car collided with a group of cyclists. Caroline bore the full impact and died shortly afterwards in hospital.
In this horrific split-second, the sport lost one of its best female athlete, a role model, inspiration and close friend to many, and Irish sport lost an outstanding female athletes. As Ian O’Riordan wrote in the Irish Times shortly afterwards, “The Irish Olympic Team for Beijing will now surely be one athlete short.” In an unprecedented move, the Olympic Council of Ireland headquarters flew flags at half-mast, an honour usually reserved for former Olympians. On that occasion, it was the passing of a future one.
As with many Triathlete’s, Caroline’s sporting career began in the pool alongside her sister Edith in Coolmine. However, it was always to triathlon that she was drawn and began racing at an early age. Families often show great sporting lineage. Caroline’s sister, Edith, was a national swimming champion and also competed at representative level for her country in triathlon for many years until serious injury led to her sporting retirement, but not from triathlon totally, where she remained as Head of Selectors for several years. Ann Kearney, Caroline and Edith’s mother, was a pioneer of the sport of triathlon and became one of Ireland’s most successful elite triathletes competing nationally and internationally with a host of awards and triumphs. Ann was the first Irish athlete to achieve a podium finish in an elite triathlon race. A formidable athlete, she competed in several Ironman events, holding an Irish record time for the distance until 2008. With this sporting pedigree behind her and the formidable raw talent and ability, Caroline shone through early on. At the age of 18 and while still a junior, she won her first National Triathlon Championship, a feat she repeated in 2001, 2002 and 2003. It was in 2002 that she began competing internationally at U23 progressing to elite level. This success was rewarded when French club, Cesson Sevigne, asked Caroline to join them and compete in the French League in 2004. In 2005, she joined Montpellier Triathlon Team for the summer and with Beijing beckoning, she based herself with a world-renowned coach for winter training on the Gold Coast in Australia. Re-joining her Montpellier team for the 2006 season, her last race was the European Championships in Autun France where she posted one of the fastest swim times and finished 29th in a world class field. Her sudden death at the age of only 24 has been a massive tragedy for everyone in triathlon in Ireland, her friends and her family. Caroline’s talentand determination was clear to everyone who met her. The love of her sport, voracious appetite for training and her positive attitude were awe inspiring to all. As a result, she earned the love and respect of people all over the world, as is paid testament to in countless postings on the Internet at the time of her passing.