Former Irish track and field star Sonia O’Sullivan will be taking on the role of assistant coach to Pete Julian in Portland, Ore., this week in the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics. She will be moving from her home in Melbourne, Australia, to the U.S. to join Julian, who is the former assistant coach to Alberto Salazar at the now-disbanded Nike Oregon Project.
O’Sullivan had an incredible running career herself, winning gold in the 5,000m at the 1995 world championships and silver in the 5,000m at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Her 2,000m world record of 5:25.36, which she set in 1994, remained unbroken until 2017, and throughout her career she won 13 major championship medals in total. In an interview with the Irish Times, O’Sullivan describes her new role as “exciting and challenging,” noting that it will give her the opportunity to work with some of the best athletes in the world.
“I won’t know what it’s fully about until I’m out there,” she explained, “but to be a part of a fully professional set-up, with a good budget behind them, to get the best possible out of the athletes is something I’m excited about.”
Julian started the group, which currently has 10 athletes who range in distance from the 800m to the marathon, after Salazar was handed a four-year ban for doping offences. Julian was not implicated in any of those offences, which allowed him to continue coaching athletes, including top U.S. 800m runner and Tokyo gold medal favourite Donavan Brazier. O’Sullivan says this is an exciting opportunity to do something different and be with a different group of athletes.
“I’m a bit nervous as well,” she said, “but when you haven’t had something like this in your life for a while it’s good to give it a go, and have some purpose again in big-time athletics.”