Back garden circle puts Fitzgerald on course for Tokyo

Like everyone else, Mary Fitzgerald is adapting, adjusting.
Back garden circle puts Fitzgerald on course for Tokyo
Mary Fitzgerald. Picture: Sportsfile

Like everyone else, Mary Fitzgerald is adapting, adjusting.

Back home in Kilkenny for as long as this pandemic plays out, the para shot putter quickly set about modifying the back garden.

Taking advantage of an area of concrete out the back, the dimensions of a shot put circle were marked out.

Makeshift though the circle may be, it enables the 20-year-old to keep on top of her craft.

And, considering the number of athletes who have been forced to press pause during this period of lockdown and limited movement, hers is an almost privileged position to be in.

Had normal life not been upended by Covid-19, Mary would be into the second week of a two-month placement as part of her occupational therapy studies at UCC.

Also packed into her schedule would be four throwing sessions a week at the Mardyke sports arena.

Placement was cancelled, the Mardyke is long since shut, but the four throwing sessions a week continue.

Coach John McCarthy is still keeping an eye on her rotation technique, albeit via Skype, while Jeff Gomez, who oversees her S&C work, has designed a programme based on the gym equipment she has at her disposal at home in Tullamaine.

Maintaining strict adherence to her regular training routine, which includes three weights sessions a week, typifies the drive and determination Mary first showed during her formative years.

Standing at just over four foot tall, she vowed never to allow her height hold her back.

Indeed, the main reason she chose to study occupational therapy at third level was a desire to help and empower others in the same way that others, particularly Enable Ireland, had assisted her throughout her childhood and teenage years.

“I didn’t want to let my height stop me from achieving what I wanted to achieve,” she says.

I won’t let anyone or anything stop me from doing what I want to do. From horse riding to ice hockey, I didn’t let my height stop me pursuing different sports. That said, shot put is definitely the one for me.

She continues: “I am differently-abled, instead of disabled. And I have realised that, through being different, I have been given so many amazing opportunities. I have represented my country several times, travelled all around the world.”

She is being modest here. Hard work, as much as anything, earned her a green singlet, most recently at the 2019 World para athletics championships in Dubai where she finished seventh in the F40 shot put.

Mary Fitzgerald. Picture: Sportsfile
Mary Fitzgerald. Picture: Sportsfile

She also throws the discus and javelin, but shot put is the discipline she is hoping will get her on the plane to next year’s rescheduled Tokyo Games.

Her personal best of 7.01m, recorded last September, may yet prove sufficient, but the goal is to have added a couple of centimetres to that mark come the summer of 2021.

“Following the postponement, so many people were saying to me, ‘I feel bad for you, you must be so gutted and disappointed’.

“And there is a bit of disappointment because it is the ultimate dream of a para athlete to go to a Paralympic Games. But the right decision has been taken. This pandemic is bigger than sport.

Opportunity

“I see the postponement more as an opportunity rather than a disappointment.

“I see the time between now and the Games in 2021 as an opportunity to get stronger, sharpen my technique, and, overall, be more prepared by the time the Games come around.

“You can’t let something like this set you back or deter your focus. The date may have changed, but the goal remains the same.

“The drive is still there, the desire is still there. I still want to perform at my best. You just have to readjust, rethink your approach.

“There is a longer time now so we will have to plan our training differently, but I believe if you want it badly enough, you will make it work.

“I am training as normal in terms of throwing sessions. The only difference is that I am doing it at home and my coach isn’t right there beside me in person, he is instead on my phone. I have a concrete area in my back garden, so that’s where I am throwing from.”

Bar a few likely divots in the back lawn, it would appear she is adapting and adjusting just fine.

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