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Silver lining for McCarthy

Thursday, 27th July, 2017 9:43am

The Irish Paralympics team arrived back to Dublin Airport on Tuesday afternoon after over a week in London at the 2017 Para Athletics World Championships.

A hugely successful championships, the Irish team captured seven medals in total. There were two golds each for runners Michael McKillop and Jason Smyth, while flying the flag for Cork were discus throwers Niamh McCarthy, Orla Barry and Noelle Lenihan who all won silver in their respective competitions.

Carrigaline native Niamh McCarthy was the first to secure her medal, which came in the F41 discus class, which she won just under a year after securing silver at Rio 2016.

“It was a great start to the championships. There was a bit of pressure alright in that we went over as a team and I was first up, but I'm there for myself ultimately, so I didn't take much notice of it. I'm ranked second in my class so my main goal was to get the silver. If I had dropped to the bronze, I would have been disappointed as I would have felt like I underachieved,” Niamh told the Cork Independent.

Plagued by injuries since her Paralympic success, Niamh's achievement at winning silver in London is all the more remarkable considering the run-in she had to the championships.

“I've had a good few injuries alright, I was suffering very badly with migraines where I would get spells of dizziness, so I went on a warm weather camp to help with that. I've also had tendon issues and a back problem that kept me out, so it's been very much start and stop since coming back from Rio. I powered through though and stepped up my training and progressed a lot.”

Since her silver at Rio, Niamh has been reaping certain benefits in training including being able to now train in CIT where there is a discus cage, a facility that wasn't available to her in Cork prior to Rio.

“It's been great in that sense, the support has been brilliant and having CIT has been a huge benefit. The set-up is excellent there and it's been a massive help. You could train alright with the actual discus but without the cage it wasn't the same, you need that to do it properly and get your technique right.”

As for her silver medal in London, Niamh says she was ultimately pleased considering her throw wasn't her best, a fact she openly admits herself.

“It was the longest day, there's a lot of waiting around – I swear I thought that result would never come in! I had been flying it in practice that morning but it wasn't my best throw when it came to it, but I still managed the silver.

“It was a funny one, 'cause this championships were on really early as well, it's usually around September so it came upon us a bit faster then it usually would but that wasn't a bad thing either. It was a huge moment for me - my mother is English, so a lot of her family came to see me compete which was great.

“I think the pressure got to them a bit as well, they wouldn't be used to it, but to have them there meant a lot. I'm an only child and my dad celebrated his 70th birthday in London as well so I think the medal was a fairly good present! My coach John McCarthy was also in London which I was delighted about, they gave coaches medals out this year for the first time, so I was able to present him with that. He hadn't a clue, it was a lovely touch and nice that the coaches got recognised as well as the athletes.”

Niamh also got to dabble in a bit of media work in London, helping sports commentator Will Downing out, a bonus she thoroughly enjoyed and, given Niamh's infectious personality, it's absolutely no surprise that she was invited to do so. “I really enjoy that kind of thing, competing isn't going to last forever for me so I have to be thinking about what's next for me but I find it a great laugh, I'm well able to chat anyway,” she says with a laugh.

The European Championships are next up for Niamh in Berlin although incredibly, Niamh is still not sure herself if her own discus class will take place at all, a situation she previously found herself in.

“It depends on who qualifies but if there are not enough European competitors, then it won't go ahead. Three of the top athletes in my class are from Tunisia. The girl who won gold in London ahead of me is from there, so a lot are not actually from Europe, so I'll have to wait and see on that one, which is frustrating but there's not much I can do about it but no, it's no ideal.

“There's actually a Grand Prix event in Tunisia which I'm considering competing at, it's a bit daunting as I wouldn't be going over there with the team but by myself. That's next March or April and perfect timing for me season-wise so we'll see. For now I'm just enjoying the medal and looking forward to whatever's next. If I can manage my injuries and have a bit more luck than I did before London then who knows?

Speaking about the team's success, Ireland Team Manager James Nolan said: “This team have been progressing amazingly well since London 2012. We were successful in Doha 2015 and Rio 2016 but to come away from this World Championships with seven medals from ten athletes is truly world-class. With the European Championships next year in Berlin, if this team can reproduce the level of performance seen in London, they will be a dominant force in 2018,” he said.

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