Galway City Sports Partnership | Women In Sports interviews Sabrina O’Carroll, co-founder of CriúBlu.

Coaching Launch on a sunny (but frosty) morning - River Guadalquivir, Seville, Spain

Photo: Frosty morning Coaching Launch River Guadalquivir, Seville, Spain

How did you get involved in sports?

In my teens and 20s, I loved callanetics, strength & fitness regimes, and I was a regular gym enthusiast. In my 30s, I got involved in bodybuilding, and was very lucky to be able to train with a professional bodybuilder for a couple of years. I was also interested in endurance walks and my work structure enabled me to go on a lot of longer distance walks over the years completing a number of the Caminos (Camino Mozárabe, Primitivo, Ingles, Vía de la Plata, Portugués…) and similar walks in Italy and Portugal, like the Rota Vicentina or sections of the Via Francigena.

My rowing interest started in 2012 on a Master Learn-To-Row Programme with Tribesmen Rowing Club. As I got more involved in the sport, coaching rowing and especially the safety side, driving launches and developing programmes became my priority. Peter Cassidy and I set up CriúBlu, a para sports organisation in 2018 and we developed CrewBlu, a rowing programme for people with disabilities. Now I spend most of my time on the river in a coaching launch, which can be lovely in the summer months but tough in the winter. Checking the weather is a constant preoccupation. We go abroad for training camps when we can for better weather, especially when the River Corrib is less hospitable. Generally though, you’ll find me huddled under layers of clothes, battling elements and flow and dreaming of sunnier days ahead.

Who is your sporting role model?

I have a few, based on my present and past interests, such as Ernestine Shepherd, an American bodybuilder who proves you are never too old to be amazing. In the rowing sphere, I really admire our own Galway ladies, adventurer Karen Weekes and rower Siobhan McCrohan, who are both excellent role models for young and older women alike. Karen was the first Irish woman to row solo across the Atlantic ocean in February 2022 and Siobhan won Gold at the World Rowing Championships in September 2023.

What is your proudest achievement?

I have been very proud of pushing myself personally beyond my comfort zone, in particular at times when I thought I could not, but in terms of a specific event, I would say I am most proud of having been involved in bringing our Irish contingent of CrewBlu athletes to the IMAS International Regatta in Turin in Italy in 2023. For Peter and I, it was a culmination of 5 years of advocacy, and a lot of hard training and learning for all our rowing athletes that enabled them all to row with such good form and skill down the river Po in front of an international audience. Additionally, the CrewBlu team won many medals, and an overall award, which was a moment of great pride for me.

What advice would you give to young girls in sports?

Find something that you like, something that makes you feel good, work it into your routine in a regular way and never give it up. It’s amazing how we think the little things we are doing in terms of our fitness is just that, ‘little’, but when you stop them – it’s surprising how ‘big’ they become to get them back. If you are involved in a sporting community, it gives you valuable friendships, support and common interest and this is very important.  If you are not involved in a club but you keep up your own practice, be it walking, running, yoga, swimming, going to the gym or any activity you love, it helps you stay positive and keeps you feeling good in your skin. Regular exercise keeps you at your best, physically and mentally – the effort is worth it every time.