‘I loved the freedom on the bike’. Crawley-born Katie-George Dunlevy (b1981) is a high scoring paralympic road and track cyclist, best known for winning gold and silver medals with pilot Eve Crystal at the Rio Paralympics in 2016.
Before arriving at Rio in 2016 Dunlevy who has been registered blind since the age of 11 when she was diagnosed with the rare degenerative eye condition Retinitis Pigmentosa, was already a successful athlete with a number of medals and awards to her name – although not always in cycling.
Dunlevy began her incredible sporting journey in the field of athletics where she won a bronze medal aged just seventeen. Swimming followed, and then rowing in which she competed for seven years, and as a member of the GB adaptive rowing squad became World Champion for Great Britain in 2004 and 2005. In 2011 she was invited by Cycling Ireland to take up cycling. At first she wasn’t sure, telling the Crawley Observer in September 2019, ‘I didn’t even realise tandem racing was an elite sport or that there were world championships and Paralympic events so I kind of just gave it a go’. It didn’t take her long to start to enjoy her new sport, telling Cycling Ireland I just loved the feel of it. I loved the freedom on the bike and the feel of speed. I fell in love with it straight away’.
The gamble paid off with Dunlevy showing a brilliance at the sport that has won her many medals. In 2014 she and McCrystal won silver in the Women’s B tandem road race at the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) Para-Cycling Road World Championships in the USA, a performance that Paralympics Ireland described as ‘laying down a marker for a new force to be reckoned with in tandem para-cycling’. Dunlevy followed this in 2015 with a bronze medal in the 3k pursuit at the UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships in the Netherlands. Dunlevy and McCrystal’s subsequent victory at the 2016 Rio Paralympics was decisive, with second place Japan, coming in over 30 seconds behind.
The following year was just as spectacular when, in September, she achieved the feat of becoming double World Champion at the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in South Africa. In 2018 she retained both titles in Italy becoming double World Champion again. In 2019 Dunlevy added another Gold Medal to her expanding tally when she came first in the time trial at the UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championships in the Netherlands and managed to take a Silver in the competition’s road race.
Despite Dunlevy living and training in Crawley, she usually competes internationally for Ireland as she has Irish family connections. She has won plenty of plaudits both in Ireland and here. In 2016 she won the Outstanding Female Performance Award at the Irish Paralympic Awards, was declared The Irish Times Sportswoman of the Year and was shortlisted for the RTE’s Sports Personality of the Year 2016.
Closer to home Dunlevy won Sports Personality of the Year in both 2016 and 2017 at the Sussex Sports Awards in Brighton. She was Disabled Sports Personality of the Year finalist at the same competition in 2016 and winner 2017.
Dunlevy’s focus is clearly one to watch in Tokyo Paralympics next year as she and McCrystal strive to retain their title and this time win gold in the road race too.
Good luck in your future events, Katie-George!