Katie-George Dunlevy carries the Irish flag at closing ceremony alongside Eve McChrystal Pic: Sportsfile
What an end to a wonderful Paralympics it has been for Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McChrystal as they stood on the podium with gold medals for the second time inside a week in Japan.
The girl with the Donegal connections has surpassed her Paralympics in Rio when she won gold and silver by taking home two goals and one silver this time around.
The second gold came in the torturous 92.4k road race on Friday morning on the Fuji International Speedway. There was a cat and mouse finish for the final few laps when Great Britain pair Sophie Unwin and Jenny Holl joined the Irish pair and Louise Jannering and Anna Svaerdstroem of Sweden who had led for most of the race.
The GB pair would not share at the front so it was left to the Swedes and Irish to do the work. But Dunlevy and McChrystal always looked strong and they made the decisive break well inside the final lap to streak home well clear. The GB pair finished second with the Swedish duo picking up the bronze medals.
The break by the Irish pair meant they were able to savour the win in the final yards but
Dunlevy and McCrystal had already captured gold in Tuesday's time trial to retain the title they won in Rio five years ago, while the inspirational pair also seized silver in the B 3,000m individual pursuit last Saturday.
"The road race is my favourite and I've always wanted to win that at the Paralympics," a euphoric Dunlevy told RTÉ Sport after a series of near misses in the event.
"In London I was fifth in the road race, and then I got silver in Rio. To win it in Tokyo is a dream come true.
"It was a really challenging race. The Swedish were really technically very good and on the downhills we were losing ground to them. If they went ahead of us, we had to use a lot of effort to get it back.
"It was a lot of on-off efforts and it was really draining as the laps went on.
"There was a chance there and we just had to take it. That was to attack really on that last climb coming in. We did, and we got a gap, and I just can't believe it held off to the line.
"I was fading off quickly though!"
The 39-year-old also reflected on her vision loss in her moment of glory, offering a message of hope to those currently struggling with visual impairments.
"I struggled at school, I found school really hard," she admitted. "I was diagnosed at 11 – I would have liked to have been able to say to my younger self then that everything is going to be OK – great things can happen.
"Just believe in yourself and there are things you can do, and that is what I would tell someone young with sight issues at home watching this."
McCrystal added: "I can't believe it because as a pilot I found that course so stressful in the rain.
"As Katie said, we were losing ground on the descent. The climb I found tough because of the on-off during the race.
"I just said to Katie with about 2km to go that we're going to have to kick the last little drag up because the British bike are the current world champions. I didn't want to take them to the line so we had to chance it.
"We chanced it, we got a gap, and we just went for it and I cannot believe we did that.
"I didn't really feel the rain too much. I was just concentrating on staying upright and the Swedish girls really put it to us on the corners.
"Double Paralympic champions – oh my God almighty – never in my wildest dreams!"
There was plenty of celebrations too in the Dunlevy home in Crawley, south of London where her Mountcharles-born father, John and mother Alana reside.
Already Dunlevy is looking forward to Paris in three years' time but whether she will have Eve as partner remains to be seen.
"I am thinking of going for Paris," said Katie-George. "The last two years I've improved so much. I'm getting the best power I've ever had. It's only three years," said Katie-George, who added that Eve has to make her own decision.
"It's a massive decision for me because I have two children at home, who I have missed so much. I've been away for five weeks. As Katie said, we have a lot to think of." At least she wasn't ruling it out completely.
But for now it is nothing but celebrations and Katie-George along with her mum and dad are due to visit Donegal this week after she returns from Tokyo.
To crown the week, Katie-George as the flag bearer at the closing ceremony along with Eve, rich reward for their efforts for the country over the past week and a half.
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