Jessie Barr would dearly love to don an Irish singlet at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo but the first hurdle the Waterford woman has to clear is the uncertainty as to whether she actually wants to race again.
A member of the women’s 4x400m relay hurdles team that competed at the Games in London six years ago, Barr has been a European Championship finalist and an Irish U23 record holder but athletics has lost ground in her list of priorities.
Halfway through a PhD in sports psychology, she is also lecturing at the University of Limerick but her progress on the track has been stalled more or less since 2012 by a debilitating run of injuries.
“I’m still in that place where I’m still not sure where I am at. Priorities have changed in the last couple of years for me after a load of injuries. I’ve realised life gets in the way of training. I’m doing a PhD, work. Training was always my number one priority for years. I’m still training away, not at the same intensity, but I would love to get back.
“Whether it is this season or next season I don’t know. I just want to give it another go. I just know there was potential that was untapped and I don’t want to quit and in 10years ask what could have been. But at the moment I’m just very busy with other stuff so ... it’s just not my main focus unfortunately.”
She is 28 but in no rush to make a decision one way or the other. The good news is she isn’t injured. Motivation isn’t a problem though she is far more relaxed about training now than she was when pushing for London or the injury-curtailed bid for Rio.
Her specialist area in sports psychology is on athletes and how they deal mentally with injuries so she knows how to put all this into perspective and knows too that, given her age, she has to walk again in racing terms before she runs competitively.
And, who knows, it may even be that the hiatus pays off in the long-term.
She had lost the love for athletics, found herself training out of habit and not enjoying it, but there is still an inner drive there: a desire to feature on an Irish Olympic team along with her brother Thomas who finished fourth in 400m hurdles at the 2016 Games. “I would love to go to another Games after not getting to Rio… I have always said I wanted to get to the Olympic Games on my own merit. Obviously getting there in the relay was amazing but I wanted to get there for the hurdles.
“If it happens it happens. If it doesn’t I have kind of accepted that so motivation is still there to get back to race and if that gets me a national standard or an international standard would be great.”
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