Women in Sport: Phil Healy in flying form ahead of the Olympics

Ballineen Bullet has collected another Women in Sport prize ahead of her trip to Toyko
Women in Sport: Phil Healy in flying form ahead of the Olympics

Phil Healy has been in blistering form since 2020. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

IT'S day three of the Irish National Championships in Santry and in the car park, Shane McCormack’s boot is opened fully.

In the back of his vehicle, there are cones, small jumps and other equipment for training.

There is also what appears to be a small pink scooter for a child but lying down amongst it all - her legs wrapped in recovery pump boots - is Ireland’s fastest woman and soon to be 14-time National champion, Phil Healy.

“We had to do everything we could to keep the recovery going,” Healy tells the Echo.

“The rounds were very close together, especially when I had already ran on Friday, Saturday and then the heat on Sunday morning.

“The conditions were woeful on that Saturday evening, the wind was really strong. I knew the girls inside and outside me were going to go for it and maybe even try to track me down.

“I knew that if I run their race then I’m going to be totally blowing my opportunity so I just had to sit there on that back straight and flow down before I kicked with about 130 to go.

“That was definitely my experience coming into play. Nationals were about winning, you have to run your own race and not someone else’s.

“But it is a big task on your body to do four races in the three days, it was an awful lot so in between rounds we had to be smart before we went for the 200-metre final.” 

That final itself was arguably the biggest race of the entire weekend as Healy, the 400-metre champion, and Rhasidat Adeleke, the 100-metre gold medallist, went head to head in what both may regard as their strongest event.

As the talented pair crossed the finish line, the clock registered 22.83 seconds for Healy and 22.84 for Adeleke to secure an incredible end to a successful few days for the Ballineen Bullet.

But unfortunately for the 26-year-old, an Irish record was denied as the wind speed reading of 2.1 metres per second was in excess of the acceptable limit by the smallest possible margin.

“If it was under the legal limit I would have the record back again but this is championship racing,” she added.

“It was disappointing but, to be honest, I was going to nationals to bump up my rankings for the Olympics a little further.

“I just needed a 23:60 and even come second so I knew when I crossed that line, saw the time and I was in first, that was going to secure my Olympic spot.

“For me, that was the full aim of the weekend. I didn’t reflect on the fact that I didn't get the national record, there will be plenty of time for that yet.

“I wasn’t expecting that time when I had two 400s in the legs and a 200-metre heat so I was buzzing after the weekend. It was the showdown everyone was looking for and I delivered so I was thrilled.

“This is a massive confidence boost for the rest of the summer.” 

Her displays in each race are incredibly impressive in their own right, but what’s perhaps the most remarkable characteristic that Healy possesses is her strong mentality, which allows her to consistently perform at the highest level.

“I think it’s just naturally there,” she admits.

Sometimes it’s my downfall as well because I’m so driven that I’m always looking for perfection and perfection isn’t always there.

“That’s something that Shane has to manage and I probably drive him insane in the process. If I’m doing it I’m giving it 110% and competing at the top level only drives me forward even more.

“You definitely have to reflect and take from them because every race isn’t going to be a good race. You can’t let the highs be too high or the lows be too low, you have to use it in the right way and move on to the next one.

“You can’t forget about it totally because you will never enjoy a moment in the sport otherwise.” 

PILING UP

That attitude has also allowed her to rack up the honours with the latest being one of the Echo’s prestigious Women in Sports awards for the Spring and Summer, which will now make its way to the Healy household.

“There’s a box… My bedroom is stacking up with the medals and the awards so my mom has plenty of crystal on the mantelpiece as well,” she laughs.

“But no, it’s great to be recognised especially when athletics is a minority sport. It’s an honour to get these awards especially with the talent that is in Cork across so many women’s sports.

“But to be recognised in my sporting field is unbelievable with the calibre of sports athletes in the county.” 

It’s an honour that is well deserved, not only for her wins at the Nationals at the end of June but for what she has achieved in 2021 so far.

Healy opened her year with a 400m personal best of 51.99 in Abbotstown two weeks before driving to victory in both her heat and semi-final at the European Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland.

In the final, she narrowly missed out on a medal but her fourth-place finish proved that she could compete with the best.

“I got to the semi-final in 2019. I was going into that highly ranked but I messed up the first round so it was about using that experience to go through the rounds properly this time and getting to that final was just a massive relief,” she enthuses.

“Rankings means nothing when it comes to indoors especially at a major championship because so many things can happen but to come fourth... it was like winning a medal for me.

“To finish with a PB (Personal Best) in my third race in 36 hours and just knowing that I was able to compete with the best in the world, that was just unbelievable. I got my redemption for 2019 in Glasgow.

That was a massive platform for me, that was my first major senior international final.

“To be in there and recognised by all the other girls that I’m just as much there to contend as they are was a massive boost for me to take into this summer.

“It set me up for Tokyo qualification in terms of rankings, that I could use those points for the 400 because if the games went ahead in 2020, I was just qualified in the 200 so this year gave me the extra opportunity to focus on the 400 and the mixed relay.” 

After making her mark already this year in Ireland and in Europe, next up for Healy is the Olympic Games in Tokyo with more success in the 200m, 400m, and mixed relay in her sights.

“Tokyo will be the last competition of the year and it’s obviously going to be the biggest one so everything is focussed on that now.

“When it was cancelled in 2020, that gave us another opportunity to work a little bit more to make sure 2021 was that bit more special.

“Everything is going really well for me at the moment and I’m just excited about what’s to come this summer."

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