Local athletes try to maintain focus during lockdown

Some of the regions best athletes have had to stay mentally tough over the last number of months as they continue to train despite not knowing when the next competition will be held. Athletes such as Kate O’Connor, Patience Jumbo Gula as well as boxer Amy Broadhurst have been working hard in recent months hoping that they will be competing again sooner rather than later.

Kate, who became Ireland’s first ever heptathlon medal winner when winning silver at the U20 European Championships in 2019, started studying at Sheffield University shortly after winning that medal, where she began training under the watchful eye of Tony Minichiello. Minichiello was the long-term coach of 2012 Olympic heptathlon Jessica Ennis but his coaching relationship with Kate was disrupted when COVID-19 arrived meaning the Dundalk athlete had to return home. Kate is now studying online and while keeping in contact with Tony it is her father Michael who is helping Kate stay motivated and healthy ahead of any return to action.

“It’s obviously tough for Kate to stay motivated when events are getting cancelled left right and centre but at the moment we are just training as hard as we can and aiming for targets. If they happen they happen and if not you have to tell yourself all this hard work will pay off down the line when we do get back to normal,” explains Michael. “Training is tough because most places are closed and with Kate being a heptathlete she needs to be working on more than just her running.
“Kate has an outside chance of qualifying for the Olympics but at the moment our main goal is to get ready for the World University Games which take place in August in China. However, there’s no guarantee that they will go ahead either so our worst case scenario is that we are putting in all the hard work to be ready for 2022,” stated Michael.

Meanwhile Paul Jumbo Gula, father of sprinting sensation Patience admitted it was very tough for his daughter to stay motivated. Patience burst onto the athletics scene in 2017 when she won bronze at the European Youth Olympics and then a year later she impressed again when running a new Championship record of 11.59 in her semi-final of the U18 championships in Gyor. The former St Vincent’s Secondary School student went to university in the Netherlands last year but like many of her peers she returned home when COVID-19 arrived.

“Patience is at home now and while she tries to train as best she can it is difficult as it is hard to remain motivated when you have nothing to aim for. She was studying and training in the Netherlands before this pandemic hit but she’s at home for the moment and only God knows when she can get back to her usual training regime. It’s very hard with the tracks all closed during lockdown,” stated Paul.
Muirhevnamor’s multiple champion boxer Amy Broadhurst is faring somewhat better however with the Dundalk southpaw still able to train five days a week at the IABA centre in Abbotstown which she is allowed to do given her status as an elite boxer.

“Thankfully I’m still training away and I’m up in Dublin five days a week working hard before coming back to Dundalk on a Saturday and getting another training session in. It was tough last year with all the lockdowns and I was unable to train for much of the year but this year is better so far and I’m thankful that I can get some work in. Unfortunately, the Elite championships were postponed recently but I know the GB boxing squad are coming over her in a couple of weeks time for some sparring so we will get some good quality training in alongside them,” stated Amy.

“I don’t think we will get much competition in this year but I am working hard regardless as I have the world championships in my sight for 2022,” she added.

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