Rio Paralympics 2016 blog: Mark Rohan

Mark Rohan, from Ballynahown, near Athlone, is a former Westmeath U21 footballer who was left paralysed, from the chest down, after a road accident in 2001. He will be writing a monthly blog in the build-up to the 2016 Paralympic Games. Here is his first post.
Rio Paralympics 2016 blog: Mark Rohan

I’ve just completed an MBA in Sport Management at the European University of Madrid which is a graduate school for Real Madrid. My final project presentations took place on the 30th of June and I just received the news that we passed and we received some good feedback, so I have literally, just finished, though I still have a six-week internship to complete. I’m heading to London to do it at Wembley!

There’s a university called University College of Football Business there that is partnered with the FA, Man City and Burnley and they also have a link with Real Madrid.

I already had a degree in Sports Management from UCD and, in 2014, went to San Francisco to enrol in a Masters programme, but I left after two months because it was too difficult to combine study with fulltime training.

Madrid’s sports’ MBA programme is ranked in the world’s top 10 but there were a few more reasons why I selected Real Madrid to study.

I could do it intensively and finish in nine months, along with the high quality and variety of contacts that we are exposed to.

There were about 80 doing the MBA here but only 23 in our sport class. Apart from the Real Madrid connections we also had guest lectures and visits from professionals across the whole Spanish sports’ industry, and also from America.

I got to go to matches at the Bernabeu a few times but it’s the whole business of Real Madrid that fascinates me.

Mark with Real Madrid legend Emilio Butragueno
Mark with Real Madrid legend Emilio Butragueno

Basketball is huge in Spain and Real’ have one of the biggest basketball teams in the Euro-League. Seeing how they operate, how their teams are now using new media to drive people towards their websites, that’s been fascinating.

I’ve actually preferred going to the basketball, there’s more of an atmosphere, especially at the ‘el clasico’ derbies. They beat Barcelona 3-1 in this year’s finals with each match selling out the 9,000 seater Barclays centre.

We travelled to America for two weeks in March, to visit soccer teams like Red Bull New York and the Cosmos. We visited New York City FC for a game day experience and I felt the atmosphere at Yankee Stadium was also better than the Bernabeu.

I definitely want to work in sport but where exactly I’m not sure yet. I think it might be more rewarding to work in sports development and administration rather than high performance, which is pretty cut-throat and volatile in terms of job stability.

We did a lot of different modules during the nine months consisting of marketing, operations, management..etc – and also corporate social responsibility, which is a huge part of clubs like Real Madrid.

I shared a place here, in Alcobendas, with a Japanese guy who moved out today and I’ll be off to Wembley on July 15 where I’ll rent some student accommodation.

I’ve also just been home briefly for Paralympics Ireland’s ‘More Than Sport’ fundraising ball, where Ann Ebbs and Oliver Murphy were honoured and it was great to be part of such a special night.

Interest in Rio is obviously gathering at this stage and people sometimes ask if I’ve any regrets, but when I finished I felt I’d nothing left to do as an athlete, there was no burning desire inside. I really haven’t missed the competition or the training, partly I suppose because I’ve been so busy!”

* Mark Rohan represented Ireland, initially at wheelchair basketball and tennis, before discovering hand-cycling in 2009 and becoming a three-time H1 World champion in 2010-2011 and a double-Paralympic champion in London 2012. The decision to reclassify him to H3 status in 2014 ended his hopes of being as competitive in Rio 2016 so he retired from competition in October 2015 and is now pursuing a career in the business of sport. Mark is an Allianz sports and brand ambassador. Allianz is an official partner to Paralympics Ireland and global partner to the International Paralympics Committee (IPC).

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