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Niamh McCarthy, Paralympic discus thrower

Wednesday, 17th October, 2018 4:22pm

Name and position: Niamh McCarthy, Paralympic discus thrower

Age: 24

Lives: Carrigaline

Family: Mother Caroline and father Flor

Pets: Three cats at my mother’s house where I live (Marlie, Jessie and Dave) and two dogs at my dad’s (Muffin and Fudge)

Favourite thing about Cork: People’s friendliness, whether from Cork or not!

Least favourite thing about Cork: Traffic on the N40

One thing you’d change about Cork: If I changed something it wouldn’t be Cork anymore!


When you were small, what did you want to be as a grown-up?

I always wanted to be a vet! Growing up as an only child in the country, I spent a lot of time with my pets, so I always wanted to help them when I was older.

Tell us about your career progression to your role today:

Despite never been a sporty person, I was discovered by Paralympics Ireland at a talent search in October 2012, and after two years’ training, I was selected for my first international championships at the World Championships in 2015, where I secured a bronze medal. I then went on to win silver at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, silver at the 2017 World Championships and am currently the European Champion and record holder in the F41 category discus.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of what you do?

Getting to travel the world for various different camps and competitions is the best thing about sport. Since starting, I have been to the UK, Italy, France, Qatar, Brazil, Germany and Spain. In the next two years, I will also hopefully get to the United Arab Emirates and Japan!

What motivates you?

Progression. When you are putting in hours and hours, week after week, it is great when you start hitting personal records in the gym or in competition. Each year you might have different goals, but when you start hitting them that’s when you can see it was all worth it!

What advice would you give your 15 year old self?

15 was a tough time for me! I was living in France at the time with my mother and was having a tough time in school with the language barrier, but I would say that it doesn’t matter how hard a time you are a having, there are bigger and brighter things ahead. You just have to be patient and have some faith!

If you weren’t in the job you have, what would you be doing?

I have no idea! When I started training I was in UCC doing a science degree. I always thought I would end up moving away from Ireland and get a taste of what else is out there but who knows!

What is your greatest life or career achievement to-date?

Winning the silver medal in Rio. It was only my third year of competing and I was completely out of the medals for most of the competition, but I managed to dig deep and pull out a throw that had me finishing second even though I went into the competition third on the world rankings. I scared a lot of people that day, including myself!

Who has had the biggest influence on you in your life?

I’ve never really had a role model that I’ve looked up to. The best influence is watching other people achieve their own goals, be it in sport or something else.

What is the life dream now?

I am enjoying life as a professional athlete right now, but when my sporting life eventually comes to an end, I would love to get into sports psychology and maybe a bit of reporting also.

How do you switch off?

I have worked in Dell EMC for the last year or so. I think having something else in my life other than sport is extremely beneficial, as I get to live outside of the sporting work for a few hours a week. When I actually have free time, I love to just zone out watching whatever YouTube suggests, be it funny cat videos or taste tests! Some might think this is a waste of time, but sometimes doing nothing is the best rest you can get!

What is your favourite Cork memory?

I loved when I was a young kid, five or six, and going into the city to do whatever my parents needed. Growing up next to a farm, it was always fascinating to go into the big city with people and shops everywhere. Those moving statue performers always scared the life out of me though!

What is your favourite place in Cork?

Although the city is always a hive of activity, I love Curraghbinny Wood. I remember as kid I would always go there for Easter with my parents hiding all the eggs in trees and bushes for me, and we would always go there for walks with the dogs as well. It’s a lovely peaceful place, full of nature and great views of the water.

Do you have a favourite quote or motto?

‘The only limits on what you can achieve is your opinion of yourself.’ This is something I came up with myself after seeing what I have been able to achieve in life, despite any challenges I’ve had.

When are you at your happiest?

I think coming home after being away at work, training or out of the country and going into my house to have my cats all run up to me to welcome me back. It’s always nice when someone is excited to see you!

Any regrets?

I try not to regret anything. It’s a waste of time thinking about things you can’t change when there are things you can do in the present.

What is your hidden talent?

I’ve always been a good sprinter. Despite being a foot shorter than everyone, I was actually on the sprint team in primary school, and still like to do the odd sprint at training too. There is a lot of control required when throwing a disc, but I like to let loose and give all my energy and power to a run. No more than 100m though!

What might we be surprised to know about you?

Before I started training as a discus thrower, I started skydiving with UCC, and to date have over 100 solo jumps. I also speak fluent French from my years living over there!

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I think that’s enough for now!

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