Ahead of the Paralympics, paracanoist Pat O’Leary dismissed any major concerns over the Zika virus or the state of the water in Rio.
“We’re constantly getting updates from the medical team.” O’Leary said. “I was there last August and the mosquitoes there would be limited then because it’s their winter. I don’t have any huge fears about it.”
Nor will O'Leary lose sleep over water quality. “There were concerns about the lagoons last year. It’s far from the cleanest water I’ve paddled in but it’s also far from the worst, to be honest. It’s not something that would ever stop me going. I know people who have paddled there and I’ve been there myself.”
With paracanoe making its debut in September, O’Leary is Ireland’s sole representative but claims that throughout Team Ireland there is strong unity.
“Over the last four years, we met as a squad even though we’re all in different sports. We would all be training at the same venue for a few days so you get to know everyone. It would be different from the Olympic team who would be doing their own thing.
“I’ve been following the people who have qualified and their journeys. We’re all friends so it’s great to see them all raring to go as I am myself. I know how hard they worked to get here, I’m delighted.”
The Corkman also urges people to take advantage of the seas and rivers Ireland has to offer, as he hopes for the sport to grow.
“I would encourage people whether they are able bodied or disabled to get out there. It’s a very accommodating sport for people with disabilities as there are minimal changes that have to be made. Hopefully, by Tokyo 2020 we’ll have more than just one representative.”
For me, at the end of the day, our races are in lanes 200m against others. You’re klind of racing yourself. The only person I’m racing is myself and each time I wanna go as fast as I can and if someone’s faster than me that’s fine and if someone isn’t that’s fine.
"Ultimately its about me being as fast as I can be and I know that I’m doing it right and I trust that everyone else is as well."
An keen advocate of anti-doping, the NUIG lecturer O’Leary is “extremely proud” to be part of a team who are so diligent when testing for doping.
“One thing that we do absolutely right is anti-doping. Every hour of every day Sport Ireland know where I am. They can walk in at any stage, and demand a sample from me and that’s fine. There’s never an issue. I hope other countries do it as well as us. I know who I’ll be dealing with and don’t think anyone is doping but if there is someone out there doing something, they will ultimately get caught.”
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