Emily Maher: Where is she now?



Place of birth: Kilkenny

First adult competitive event: Senior international at the age of 15.

Where: Tallin (Estonia)

Sporting hero (as a youth): Linford Christie

Favourite sporting memory (not your own): ): Watching Sonia O’Sullivan winning silver at Sydney Olympic Games.

Your personal sporting memory: Winning two gold medals at the World Youth Olympics in Moscow (1998) and running at the Sydney Olympics (2000).

Sporting hero now: Usain Bolt.

Sporting interests now: Golf. My best friend in Argentina is an international golfer. My brother John is a great golfer

From 1 to 10, where do you rate your sport: 8

Did you like training: It was my obsession. I loved it. Still do.

What opponent caused you the greatest problems: Ciara Sheehy.

Emily Maher blew all the whistles as a young Kilkenny City Harrier athlete after she first roared to prominence as a 15-year old international. She had the athletics world as her oyster back then. She won Youth Olympic gold; ran in the Sydney Olympics for her Ireland and then not too far on injury, the dreaded curse of highly tuned athletes, took her career and ruined it. Suddenly Emily Maher slipped off the athletics Richter scale.

Recently, she came back in front of the gun-sights, and we wondered where she had been.

She has just tipped over the 30s line, and she still looks as if she could manage a 11.58 personal best (we have been reading about them a lot recently) over 100 metres, or a 23.34 over double the distance. Slim as a rush, lithe, and looking really well, she still carries herself with the grace and elegance of a fashion model.

She is holidaying with her mother, Frances, down in Ballytobin, outside Callan. She is accompanied by her son, Mathias, and husband, Federico Quaglia. She was married over three years ago. They live in Rosario, north of Buenos Aires.

Federico plays rugby, and the entire family attend the games, and also go to their local gym every day.

Emily joined Kilkenny City Harriers as a wide eyed 11-year-old juvenile.

“Like many before me, and afterwards, Sean Byrne was the man that inbued us with a love of athletics,” she told us.

“Sean had us doing all of the disciplines, sprinting, middle distances and relays. My great friend and coach, Robert Norwood then took me under his wing. This fashioned a tremendous relationship between the Norwoods and my family.

“I was very friendly with his talented daughter, Fiona. I would have to say that the KCH family was one of the greatest joys of my young life. It is a terrific club, of that there is no doubt. We all loved going in to train.”

Emily won her double gold in Moscow and was ranked third in the World at junior level. A last minute declaration for Ireland by another girl deprived Emily of the chance to run in her favourite 200 metres in Sydney, but she was a member of the relay team with Ciara Sheehy and others.

“I didn’t mind the substitution situation, because I was delighted to be called an Olympian, but I was more interested in the World juniors really,” she recalled.

Having hooked up with British Olympic champion, Linford Christie (Barcelona), she was coached with his squad prior to the Sydney Olympics. She stayed with Christie for six years at his training complex in Cardiff, and she is a huge admirer of Christie’s methodology and coaching techniques.

Emily always felt that there would be plenty more Olympics. But a serious back injury was her constant companion. She failed to qualify for Athens, and so her Olympic ambitions petered out.

She met Federico when he was playing rugby for Garryowen. His friend, another Federico (Pucherello, played with Munster) developed a bio-energy Company in Argentina, so Federico and Emily Maher decided they would emigrate to Argentina.

Emily and her family, while in love with Argentina, its climate and its vastness, would still hope that one day they will return to Ireland.

“Argentina is a very rich country, but it has deplorable poverty,” she told us. “You have the biggest casino in South America standing side-by-side with the worst slum imaginable. The world is badly divided down there, and crime is rampant. That is a terrible pity, because it is a lovely country, with lovely people.”