Two years ago Geraldine Finegan feared her athletics career was over after suffering a brain injury which compromised her eyesight. Last week she returned from the World masters Athletics Championships which took place in Tampere, Finland with five medals including three bronze, a silver and a gold.
Geraldine who grew up in Church St. took part in the event which saw the best athletes over the age of 35 compete for medals over twelve days between June 29th and July 10th. The highly decorated athlete took part in the over 55 section and admits she was nervous ahead of her first event the heptathlon. As it turned out she had no need to be as she smashed the national record by 300 points claiming the bronze medal with a total of 5827 points.
“I think when the country locked down for Covid it actually worked out well for me because I was recovering from my brain injury, and I was able to pretty much hibernate for eighteen months. When I got the brain injury, I had issues with my sight which meant I couldn’t compete but with Covid everything was cancelled anyway so I didn’t really miss anything, and I was able to recover.
“I was pretty nervous ahead of my first event at the worlds as it had been a while since I competed on the world stage in front of people watching in the stadium. Thankfully the event went well for me and I broke the national record as well as claiming bronze so that really got the ball rolling for me,” states Geraldine.
The talented 57 year old would go on to win four more medals including a gold in the team sprint relay. No Irish athlete has ever returned from a world games with as many medals and her latest haul makes it an astonishing total of 76 world and European medals won by Geraldine as well as six world records and countless national records.
However, it is the experiences and pride in performance rather than the medals which mean the most to Geraldine and she admits she often gives her medals away to young kids that she coaches to help push them to go faster.
“The medals are just pieces of metal really and it’s more about the sense of achievement for me. I often challenge the kids I coach to a race and give them a head start and say if they can beat me, I will give them one of my medals. I have given plenty away and I don’t really pay much heed to how many I have. I love coaching kids and helping them reach their potential and I always try to teach them the importance of believing in themselves.
“My dad died when I was young, and I never had a coach growing up so I want to give them advice and knowledge that I missed out on growing up. My successes have come later in life and that’s ok, but I love seeing these kids reach their potential and grow in confidence,” stated Geraldine who is a member of Dundalk North-East Runners.
“I have coached some of these children since the ages of seven and eight and they almost feel like your children by the time they reach their teenage years. The pride I feel when I see them doing well brings me so much joy and matches any pleasure I feel when competing myself.
“I still have things I want to do in the sport and I still have ambitions such as breaking the record for the decathlon which I think is possible. I will continue to work hard and more importantly keep enjoying pushing myself and trying to get better,” she concluded.