Irish Paralympian Eve McCrystal on the advice she would give young girls thinking of taking up a sport 5 months ago

Irish Paralympian Eve McCrystal on the advice she would give young girls thinking of taking up a sport

For Paralympic cyclist Eve McCrystal, the decision to get involved with the 20x20 initiative was an easy one.

The mum-of-two - a member of An Garda Síochana in Co Monaghan - took up competitive cycling when she was 33-years-old.

Now at the age of 40, she has competed in tandem events for Ireland as a sighted pilot for blind cyclist Katie-George Dunlevy - with the two of them taking home two medals in cycling at the 2016 Summer Paralympics.

After becoming inspired by the panel at the 20x20 launch last year, she became determined to get involved - but with her current training to qualify for Tokyo 2020, it took on a different meaning for her.

The mum-of-two told Her about her involvement with the initiative, the piece of advice she would give any girl thinking of taking up a sport (or getting back into one),  and the pledge she would be making as part of the #ShowYourStripes campaign.

Tandem cyclist teammates Eve McCrystal, left, Katie-George Dunlevy display their medals from the Women's B Road Race during the homecoming from the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Photo via Sportsfile.

She said:

“For me to be involved more, it’s a lot [with the training for Tokyo 2020]. I’m thinking that the only thing I can do as a woman in sports is make sure I can be more visible to them, their school friends and other young girls. 

"As a mother and an older athlete, I want to show my children what can be done - that the women who are trying to juggle everything like work, training and life at home; they can be the best.

"I want to show them what’s possible when you're a working mum, training to go to 2020 - even though it’s small, I want to show them it’s possible; it's not unattainable.

"When Tokyo 2020 is finished, I hope to take part in local matches and games - but as I’m competing at the moment, all I can be is visible and let my children make the decision themselves."

Eve with her daughters, Nessa and Ava, during her Rio homecoming in 2016. Photo via Sportsfile.

As for the advice she would give any girl or woman who was thinking of taking up a sport (or who was thinking of getting back into one), she said:

"[It would be] the advice I'd give my own daughters: ‘If you’re going to do something, you have to enjoy what you’re doing - if you don’t, it’s not the sport for you.’

"It's important to be passionate about [the sport] and there’s a whole other side of it - like the friends you make.

"Most of all, stay true to yourself whatever you decide."

She added that while there's a part of her that feels like she's failing her daughters "because I simply can't do everything", 20x20 has given her more confidence as a mum.

Katie-George Dunlevy of Ireland, left, along with her pilot Eve McCrystal, with their gold medals during the medal ceremony of the Women's B Time Trial in Rio 2016. Photo via SportsFile.

She continued:

"This initiative gives me huge confidence as a mother that I'm doing the right thing and hopefully what they see their mammy doing will be the norm in their own life.

"Even if it's not a sport they choose, they see discipline hard work and a lot of sacrifice to be the best version of themselves."

To mark International Women's Day, 20x20 is asking everyone to #ShowYourStripes and pledge one action to support girls and women in sport in 2019.

Whether it's attending more women's games as a fan or introducing a pal (or more than one) to a sport that you love, show your support and post your action (big or small) online using #ShowYourStripes and #20x20.

20x20 is an ambitious two-year long initiative to better promote and champion women in sport.

With the tagline of "if she can't see it, she can't be it," the 20x20 movement has three targets to reach by 2020:

  • 20 percent more media coverage of women in sport
  • 20 percent more female participation
  • 20 percent more attendance at women’s competitions and events

And at Maximum Media, we're proud that Her and SportsJOE is backing the 20x20 movement as official digital media partners.