THESE days life has become something of a balancing act for Timmy Crowe. For the Sixmilebridge teenager, it’s an ever-evolving cycle of school, training, study and sleep; each day routinely the same as the next.
But both have their rewards – a good education opens avenues in life while success in a sporting environment, be it on the national, European or world stage, brings personal satisfaction and a sense of achievement.
At the moment, both opportunities lie ahead of the 17-year-old from Cappa South. He is cramming for his mock Leaving Certificate examinations while finding time between school and study to concentrate on his consuming sporting passion of athletics and his elevation in a sport in which his father, Tim, is a legendary figure.
This week, Timmy was selected on the Irish 4 x 400m relay team alongside twice European indoor 400m champion David Gillick, for the world indoor championships in Doha. It also includes David McCarthy who, along with Gillick, were bronze medal winners in the 4 x 400m at the last world indoor championships in Budapest.
The Irish squad fly out to Qatar on the Persian Gulf next Tuesday, the same day Timmy sits a 7am paper on construction work in Limerick Tutorial. Then it’s a mad dash to Colbert Station for a train to Dublin to link up with the rest of the Irish team.
Timmy, who runs with Dooneen AC in Limerick, is following in his father’s footsteps. Back in the mid to late ’70s Tim Crowe became an icon of Irish athletics. He was three-time national champion in both the 400m and 400m hurdles and his annual battles with the late Fanahan McSweeney were legendary.
Now, as he says himself, he is reliving those halcyon days through the success of his son.
“I have to admit I am getting a great chance to relive my own experiences through Timmy and appreciate what he is going through in the lead up to, during and after races. Just to be there as a support after the event, whether he wins or loses, to listen and talk him through things, it’s great,” admits Tim.
“At times, I offer him a few words of wisdom, things I’d have learned from my own competitive running but mainly I help in the mental side of his preparation. I draw from my own experiences to get his head right.
“Timmy is fortunate in that he has two excellent coaches. He gets his technical hurdles coaching from Liam O’Hora while John Carew, who is really switched onto modern athletics, designs his programmes to get his in physical shape. They deserve all the plaudits, they have Timmy where he is. It’s down to those two,” he concedes.
Still a relative novice at the sport, Timmy could be considered a late developer. When a team representing Sixmilebridge Community Games won the U-11 relay gold medals at the national finals in Mosney in 2003, Timmy was only a substitute.
His interest in athletics took a back seat as he focussed on hurling with Sixmilebridge and St Caimin’s.
It was a school colleague in Shannon, Cathal O’Connor who helped reactivate his interest in athletics by bringing him along to Dooneen AC.
The first year competing, Timmy got an Irish schools cap in the 400m hurdles while last year, he competed in the same event at the national seniors and won a bronze medal. His meteoric rise continued and three weeks ago at the Odyssey arena in Belfast, he clocked a personal best of 48.80, winning silver in the senior race.
As a result of that Belfast performance, he earned selection on the Irish indoor team that competed against Scotland and Wales in Cardiff. Those results pitched him into the thinking of the national selectors, culminating in his selection for Doha.
Despite taking up a discipline that requires split-second precision and technique later than most, Tim believes it has been a godsend rather than a handicap.
“Hurdling is technical and in Timmy’s case, the fact that he took it up at the age he did meant that he didn’t develop any bad habits. When he got serious about hurdling, he got expert and professional coaching. He was taught properly for the start,” Tim explains.
Standing at 6’3”, Timmy has the ideal physique as he almost effortlessly glides over the hurdles.
His father certainly believes so. “With his height he has a huge advantage. He has a very good engine and great endurance, which are probably the two basic requirements needed for hurling. He is running a lot faster at his age than I did at mine. As a schoolboy my best was 50.02. He is running sub 49 seconds indoors, which is more difficult than outdoors,” he acknowledges.
Timmy himself is ecstatic with his selection and really looking forward to Doha. But his one disappointment is having to give up hurling.
“It was a big wrench alright given what hurling means to the people of Sixmilebridge. Last year hurling ended on a downer as I lost the Harty Cup final with St Caimin’s and the county minor final with Sixmilebridge. But I had a big decision to make and I suppose if I didn’t concentrate on the athletics now, I might live to regret it.
“It was always on the back of my mind and if I’m truthful, I wasn’t as focussed with my hurling last year as I should have been. I had sampled athletics competitively and wanted more so every game I played, I was half-hearted and always conscious of picking up an injury. I wasn’t being fair to myself or to my team mates, so I had a decision to make. For better or worse, I’ve made that decision and so far it has been all good,” he suggests.
And his move from St Camin’s to Limerick Tutorial was for practical reasons only.
“I really enjoyed my years in St Caimin’s but I moved to Limerick for practical reasons. I have access to facilities at University of Limerick which is nearby and I train every day. So for convenience alone, it was the only option. There’s better structure to my day, things are more organised now,” he explains.
Timmy admits that it’s only as he has become engrossed in the sports has he become aware of the extraordinary feats of his father on the track.
“Some day I’d like to emulate his achievements but he has been a great source of encouragement for me. He is a mentor, always on the sidelines observing, looking through my sessions and talking things through. It helps that he is still as passionate about athletics as I am.
“Competing at the level I’m at requires dedication. In a normal week, I’d train five days and double up with sessions on a Friday. Of those sessions, two would be gym related, one would be on grass and two on the track. And those sessions would be sandwiched in between school and study,” he outlines.
Timmy ran a personal best of 48.8 in Belfast but wasn’t surprised with the run. “The week before I ran my first sub 49, so I wasn’t surprised when I did 48.8 in Belfast. My progress has been slow but I feel there’s a lot more in me,” he adds.
Timmy speaks with an assuredness that belies his tender years. He’s not getting ahead of himself and he views Doha as another experience on the learning curve.
His real goal though – the world junior championships in Canada in July.