NUI Galway lecturer to represent Ireland in Rio Olympics 2016

Eoghan Clifford, (Environmental Engineering ’02) was diagnosed at an early age with progressive muscular dystrophy. As a child, he was a realist and knew that although he was faster than everyone else, competing at an Olympic level might not be on the cards for him. Needless to say, as he is now Rio bound for the 2016 Olympics, not much has slowed this cyclist down.

A Limerick native, but living in Galway since 1998, Eoghan Clifford has a zest for life that seems rare these days. Working as a full time lecturer at NUI Galway since 2010, Eoghan stays on his toes at work by doing research. He divides his time between Transport Engineering and Water Waste Engineering. It is easy see how this line of research would keep anyone interested.

“On the transport side, it is all about sustainable transport and, not surprisingly, mobility. Mobility in the sense of designing cities better to suit able bodied and disabled people. Also, to encourage more public transport and the use of bikes, so that people do not look at their bike as a means of exercise, but as a means of transportation.”

Eoghan’s love for his bike began at a young age, when he had to cycle to secondary school every day. Like all other teenagers, he was mad into hurling, football and rugby, but with muscular dystrophy, the muscles in the body are progressively wasting away so this posed as a challenge.

“I had to cycle the 7 km in and out to school every day, because of this I was fitter than most of the lads in the rugby club. When I went on to college at NUI Galway, I took up rowing too, which I still like, but the training for rowing was restricted and the views are hard to beat when you are cycling a 200 km ride around Connemara.”

Eoghan concentrated solely on the bike from his early twenties, and has been competing and winning alongside able bodied people ever since.

“I only got into the para cycling squad last year (2014). Denis Twomey, current president of Cycle Ireland, had approached me a few years back, but I was just too busy with work. Then the Irish Institute of Sports asked me to get involved in a research project modelling aero dynamics of Pan Cycles.”

Although this was not his core area of research, it is an area Eoghan has an interest in, so everything seemed to just fall into place and he took up para cycling. He joined the Irish squad two weeks before last year’s championships and took home two medals: a gold and a bronze.

Right now, Eoghan is back to work lecturing, and the training for the Rio Olympics has already begun. He and his wife Magdalena Hajdukiewicz are expecting their first baby in the autumn, and he is looking forward to travelling with them, and the rest of his family, to Rio next year to compete in the 2016 Olympics.

“Participating in sports, of any kind, is a great way to stay on top of mental health issues, whether you are an abled bodied or disabled person. Most of the athletes I train with, we never talk about disabilities. Those fellas are strong in mind and body and could beat most able bodied people in a race. If you are disabled then get involved in sport if you can. If you compete, at any level, the professional world is the exact same as it is for the able bodied athletes. For me, with Rio in the future, any medal will do, but it would be crazy to go all the way to the Olympics and not think about bringing home the gold.”

The staff, faculty, students and alumni at NUI Galway wish Eoghan all the best for the future and look forward to welcoming him home from Rio next year.

Eoghan Clifford is a lecturer in Civil Engineering, NUI Galway and has almost 10 years experience in the areas of water, wastewater, waste treatment and sustainable transport