Brendan O'Brien: Paralympic Games postponement just latest adaptation required of Timothy

Brendan O'Brien: Paralympic Games postponement just latest adaptation required of Timothy

CAN’T do this, can’t go there.

This sort of language is new and scary to most of us but Paralympians have invariably heard those phrases uttered long before the coronavirus pandemic began to coral us all in to an unfamiliar and uncomfortably straitened routine.

Richael Timothy was a goalkeeper with St Croan’s and Roscommon when surgery to treat Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia, a condition that causes abnormalities in the blood vessels, left her with an acquired brain injury.

With only 30% power in her right side, Timothy is now a former footballer. Vegetables are bought pre-chopped, slopes are a problem and the pedal in her automatic Peugeot van had to be adapted so she could use her left foot.

But that’s only part of the picture. And not the best one. 

Timothy is also a Para-Cycling Track World Championship bronze medallist and an athlete with the Tokyo Games very much in her sights even after the Paralympics was pushed back to 2021.

Paralympians prefer to be known for what they can do rather what they can’t. As is right. 

Timothy’s progress from the point four years ago when she underwent surgery to the start of February when she stood on that podium in Milton, Canada has been extraordinary.

It’s only a year now since she was ushered in to the national squad so, like athletes the world over in these uncertain times, the default setting has been to reframe all this upheaval in a positive way in terms of her sport without ever losing perspective as to the global crisis.

It is a massive progression. A lot of people asked me would it be a good or a bad thing if it was delayed.

“Health is obviously the most important thing but, for me, a delay of a year could be a massive difference because it gives me another year to train.

“The way I am looking at it, there are girls who did the same times at this year’s World Championships as last year. I would have cut seconds off mine. 

They are at their peak, probably at their best, so it is just about me trying to get closer and closer and beat them.”

The road map needed to achieve that remains uncertain.

The Para-Cycling Road World Championships are down for early June in Ostend, Belgium but it’s impossible to see that happening given the wave of infections throughout Europe and the restrictions imposed by governments to halt the spread.

Restrictions that have reached every corner of our lives.

Timothy had been working part-time visiting schools with the Roscommon Sports Partnership but that’s obviously fallen by the wayside for now. So too her day or two a week in an uncle’s shop thanks to her underlying condition.

“The advice from HHT internationally says that it probably won’t affect you but my doctor is just taking all the precautions he can. 

I have a condition which affects my lungs and pulmonary so you are just as well to keep away if you can.”

TIMOTHY’S girlfriend Jennifer is a physio in Roscommon General Hospital where her father Tommy works on the maintenance side. 

Neither are involved in combating the pandemic as virus cases are being sent to other centres for now but who knows if that will change.

Timothy admits it is a worry and that some attitudes have just confounded her.

“I thought people would be a little bit better than they are. I know people who work in healthcare, nurses, as well as guards and social workers who are still out and about and parking in woodlands and meeting up and walking and stuff like that. I couldn’t believe it.

“‘Ye are the front line people and ye should know, like’. People are saying its’s just teenagers but it’s others as well.

A few people have even said to me, ‘oh, I don’t have it’. I had to tell them that they might have it and not be showing symptoms. There’s no telling some people.

What can any of us do but carry on as best we can?

She would be in Majorca right about now, on a three-week warm-weather camp, were it not for the virus so the warmer weather here of late has been something of a godsend given the cold conditions can inhibit her ability to grip the bike.

She was only a few kilometres into what should have been a routine training ride last week when her left hand began to seize up and, with social distancing already in play, she was on her own and had no option but to ring her mum to drive out and pick her up.

Timothy’s leisure centre in Roscommon has provided her with some equipment to use at home for now and the virtual settings, the Turbo indoor bike have allowed her to simulate group sessions with teammates and her S&C work is being overseen online.

Still, it’s taken some time to adapt.

Training is invariably the easy part for any elite athletes. It’s the rest of the day that can drag and all the more so now when the entire nation has been asked to shutter itself indoors. 

Put it this way, the new series of Peaky Blinders can’t land soon enough.

The days have changed but the goal remains the same and the medal claimed in Canada recent enough to propel her on again.

“There was a tear in my eye because I couldn’t believe it had just happened. It was unbelievable.

Going on the podium, people were saying it was a great reward for everything I had put in and that my story was inspirational. I was getting so many messages.

“I don’t think I actually realised what I had done until I came home. It wasn’t so much a homecoming, just the GAA club had arranged for me to come down afterwards, but that was brilliant.

“Just to think I could do that in a year, it gave me the inspiration to get back training straight away.”

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