Women in Sport awards: Flying Phil Healy is on the right track for Tokyo

Ballineen Bullet has shown again in recent weeks why she's a rising star in Irish athletics 
Women in Sport awards: Flying Phil Healy is on the right track for Tokyo

Champion sprinter Phil Healy during a training session at Ballinesker Beach in Wexford last year. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

PHIL HEALY had to overcome some difficult moments during 2019 but unfortunately, that was nothing in comparison to what the year 2020 had in store for her.

Ireland’s fastest woman was in the shape of her life approximately two years ago when she suffered an innocuous injury, wobbling off the side of a step which unexpectedly resulted in her breaking her foot.

The setback provided her with extra motivation and allowed her to work on other parts of her trade which she felt may need improving. It also gave her the mental strength to know she could suffer a knock but come back stronger than ever when the time was right.

The Ballineen native, also nicknamed the Ballineen Bullet, would then put that injury woe behind her and she started the 2020 season in incredible form to ensure everyone knew she would still be able to compete at the highest of levels.

She rallied to break the national indoor 200-metre record — an Irish record that had stood for 17 years — in the Women’s Final of the International Athletic’s Grand Prix at the Athlone Institute of Technology last February.

At 23.10 seconds, it was also the fastest time by a European runner at that juncture in the season.

“To do it with a home crowd — it was such a great atmosphere, such a great meet — and to get 23.10, to get the national record and the win is absolutely super,” an ecstatic and breathless Phil Healy said after the race.

Little did she, or most other people in the country, know what was about to come next as the Coronavirus pandemic soon began to wreak havoc.

The sprinter was on course to qualify for the women’s 200-metre race at the Olympics in Tokyo later that year but the Games, unfortunately, had to be pushed back into the summer of 2021.

Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

While fans had to wait an extra 12 months for the biggest event in athletics, for the athletes like Healy, it potentially meant it would be more difficult to reach that stage next time around. Another disappointing factor was, given the form she was in, the chances were she was set to make a major impression in the Japanese capital.

OVERCOMING HURDLES

The pandemic would also send the country into lockdown meaning training from home would become the new normal.

Then in April, in her home gym, Healy dislocated her shoulder which required coach Shane McCormack to delicately put it back into place with the help of some medical advice over the phone.

Another serious injury but again Healy would show her strength of character to ensure this new setback didn’t faze her, again adapting to improve where she could.

That following August, she would again show her talent and her ability to overcome any obstacle that was put in her way, as well as her powers of recovery.

After winning the straight sprint the previous Sunday, Healy would also win the 200 metres a week later with a time of 23.57 seconds at the 148th running of the national track and field championships in Santry.

Her success in 2020 leaves Healy in a very strong position to make this summer’s Olympics as she is currently ranked 30th by the World Athletics, sitting comfortably inside the top 56 that will automatically qualify for the women’s 200 metres.

Her preparations in 2021 so far have seen her opt not to accept an invitation to compete in a high-profile indoor meeting in the Czech Republic although she plans to compete in the European indoor championships in Poland this month.

It was also confirmed recently that the 26-year-old, along with fellow Corkonians Meg Ryan, Aoife Casey, Margaret Cremen and Lydia Heaphy, will be the recipients of the FBD Insurance ‘Make A Difference’ programme which is a €50,000 fund that will assist Ireland’s Olympic hopefuls in their preparation for the Games.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be selected as one of the beneficiaries of the FBD Make A Difference programme,” said Healy at that announcement.

It’s always been a dream of mine to compete at an Olympics Games and hopefully, I can achieve this dream later this summer.

“If the Olympics does go-ahead, from what we’ve heard it’s going to be a different Olympics. But as athletes, we will take any opportunity to have them go ahead.

“I want it to go ahead and until it’s cancelled it’s going ahead for me.” 

Given everything she has overcome in recent times — particularly in 2020 — Healy deserves the opportunity to showcase her immense talent on the biggest stage of them all.

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