The South East’s very own Kate Veale has overcome her fair share of challenges in the past with regards to her athletics career.

Leaving those behind and focussing on the future, the Dungarvan woman has been selected to represent Ireland both in the European Race Walking Cup in two weeks time and the World Universities Games in Napoli in July.

Kate Veale sat down for a chat with SportsBeat’s Debbie Ridgard to talk about her racewalking career so far.

“I’m delighted Athletics Ireland has given me the opportunity and selecting me to go to the European Cup”, Kate says.

The 25-year-old is part of the racewalking team under coach Rob Heffernan, the first Irish athlete to compete in 5 Olympics at Rio 2016.

The Olympic Bronze medallist Heffernan announced his retirement from race-walking in July 2018 and took Veale under his wing.

Veale says Rob’s dedication to his athletes is second to none.

“In racewalking circles all over the world he’s massive, I don’t think people realise the paces he has made.

“The system with the team that I have under Rob and Derry McVeigh of Silver Hatch Sports is literally a system that Rob built.

“We’re competing against countries that have team managers, coaches, physios and they’re all being paid- the coaches are being paid a salary, that’s their full-time job.

“Whereas Rob, he’s on the phone to me at 8 am in the morning, 11 pm at night; he knows everything about my life; about all the training, he comes out on the track in the lashing rain running beside us.

“People don’t see the behind the scenes work that goes on and that he’s doing it for free.

“I would’ve looked at other countries and saying they have it all; look at the camps they have, look what they’re doing.

“I see it and I say no, like, I feel like I have the best team around me in the world, I really do and the best people around me.

Kate left the world of racewalking briefly after an injury that hindered her performance on the racewalking stage.

“I went from the highest high to feeling low. When that identity of being an athlete was taken from me I felt like I was nothing.”

Coming back and setting her sights on the 2020 Olympics is a tough task however after taking a step back and re-evaluating her training regime and work-life balance, it’s all systems go.

“There are times where I’m like will I ever get back to the level I was at or get to the Olympics and [Rob] says no, we’re going to take it step by step, you can get there.

“He has the faith and me, I have 100% trust and faith in what he’s doing and for him to be putting in the amount of work and hours and effort to me and the lads, I can’t even describe it.

“Excellence is sort of expected from us and normalised. It’s really about the environment and the people you’re around.

“The struggle is normalised as well and Rob says to us this is tough, it is awful but lots of misery will lead to lots of fun”.

In less than two weeks, Kate along with six other athletes will head to Lithuania for the European Race Walking Cup.

Veale says although the idea of being a full-time athlete may seem glamorous on the outside, there are some consequences.

“We’re all full-time athletes on the team; it’s just what it takes.

“It’s not as glamorous as it may seem on the outside but when you have people around you that support you, it means everything.

“We were at a training camp in Spain and we were like how much protein will we be able to take back with us in our suitcases because it’s cheaper over there.

“It’s an individual sport but the people I have around me, there’s no way I could be getting to these competitions or doing what I’m doing without them.

“My family are amazing. I’m still living at home; I’m between Waterford and Cork.

“It’s a big sacrifice for them as well, the effort that they’re putting in financially you know I’m 25 and still living at home. I’d say they’re like oh, we want her out of the house but to go where we want to go with this, it’s just what it takes”.

An extract of this interview was broadcast on SportsBeat Roundup with Debbie Ridgard on Saturday 4th May 2019.

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