Michelle Smith de Bruin has emerged from the ether with the rarest of rare public offerings to issue her congratulations to newly crowned Olympic gold medalists Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan.
She was contacted by RTÉ‘s Liveline to respond today after a disgruntled listener claimed that the Rathcoole women was being whitewashed from Irish Olympic history.
Smith de Bruin won three gold medals at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996, as well as a bronze. The country went nuts but many questions had emerged about her successes.
In 1998, she was banned for four years by swimming’s governing body FINA for tampering with a urine sample.
Her appeal against that ban in 1999 was dismissed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Smith de Bruin never failed a drugs test during her career, and was not stripped of her four Olympic medals.
During RTÉ’s coverage from Tokyo overnight, presenters discussed previous Irish Olympic gold medalists without mentioning Smith de Bruin’s wins in Atlanta.
Michelle Smith de Bruin issued the following statement today:
I just want to congratulate our brilliant rowers, Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan, on their wonderful achievement in becoming Ireland’s newest Olympic Champions. What a stunning performance.
Twenty-five years ago this week, I became the first Irish woman to win an Olympic Gold medal.
By the end of that week in Atlanta, I had become a Triple Olympic Champion. It was the culmination of seventeen years training and dedication to my sport.
Standing on the podium, watching the tricolour being raised and listening to Amhran na bhFiann was and still is, the proudest moment of my life.
Twenty-five years have passed and people still stop to tell me where they were when I won my medals. I will always be incredibly proud of what I achieved in Atlanta and remain touched by the level of support still shown to me by the people of Ireland.
Michelle Smith de Bruin.
Triple Olympic Champion, 1996.