What is it about Cork athletes and the big occasions?
To the list of feisty Rebels with the knack of producing their very best in championship arenas add Orla Barry, who bettered her F57 discus bronze in London 2012 with Paralympic silver in Rio yesterday.
Her second Paralympic medal may not quite have been the shade of her dreams as Algeria’s Nassima Saifi continues to be her nemesis, out-throwing her by three metres yesterday to win gold in 33.33m.
But Barry has her in her sights now, taking silver behind her with her third throw of 30:06 metres, 2.5m clear herself of Nigeria’s bronze medallist Eucharia Iyiazi.
It was short of the personal best of 31:18m that the Ladysbridge thrower launched out when winning the European title this summer but this was a pressure occasion and it’s harder than she makes it look.
The rules of Barry’s category have changed considerably in recent years.
In F57 discus you used to be allowed have one foot on the ground and could lift yourself off the seat and use your hips, an invaluable source of propulsion for any thrower.
Not athletes are not allowed use their feet at all she is is completely strapped into her fixed throwing chair with both feet off the ground.
The rule change has forced Barry to radically change her technique in recent seasons and also seen more athletes included in her class, making the competition even tougher than before. She recorded a foul throw to open yesterday, which reflected her nervousness in the build-up.
But she always likes to get a good throw in early, and so it transpired with her best in the third round of a series (NT/29.22/30.06/25.73/29.08/29.17) that included four throws over 29 metres that showed impressive consistency.
“I’ll be honest, there were doubts there during the week,” Barry revealed afterwards. “Silly doubts I probably shouldn’t have had alright, so to throw 30 metres today is fantastic. Any day I can throw over 30 metres is a good day.” The 25-year-old Waterford IT graduate, with a degree in business management and law, works in administration and accounts for her family’s dairy master agency which sells milking and feeding machines.
But otherwise throwing and training consumes her life, and she jokes that she knows the road to New Ross like the back of her hand, and that the locals there mistakenly think she’s one of them.
That’s because she’s down in Wexford so often, training in the local park with her coach Pat Furlong and she paid tribute to him and several other key men yesterday after adding Paralympic silver to her impressive medal haul that also included World silver last year.
Paralympics Ireland’s throws coach Dave Sweeney was on hand yesterday to give her some advice during the live action.
She also gave credit to former Irish international Tom Comyns and the folks at Midleton Park Hotel, who sponsor her through gym membership.
“I spoke to Dave and he just said ‘they’re flying lovely, keep everything the same, just an extra bit of speed and that’s where the distance will come from” but the speed just wasn’t in me from the fourth throw,” she explained.
“Without everyone who’s behind me at home and supporting me I wouldn’t be here at all,” she said modestly. “There’s a part of this medal belongs to all of them.
So will she stay until Tokyo and try to complete the full Paralympic set?
“Well the collection is growing but anything can happen in four years,” she said. “I’ll just have to put the work in and see, maybe I can complete the collection!
“I’ve always said that, after Rio, I’d take each year as it comes. I have World Championships again next year so, in a couple of weeks, I’ll be back training for that again.
“It’s fantastic to know you’re progressing all the time and that your hard work isn’t going to waste.
Earlier this year, when asked what’s kept her so successful, Barry said “I’ve a really good set-up and when it’s come to major championships over the years I’ve always performed. That’s what I love to do.” Sonia, Derval, Rob, Roy, ROG and Barry; there must surely be something in the Cork.
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