Ballymoe’s Richael Timothy will fly out to Portugal next Monday ahead of her Tokyo Paralympic Games odyssey in August. The 26-year-old, who studied Sports Science in AIT and is now a personal trainer, says next week’s camp is a crucial part of preparations.
“We’re straight into camp in Portugal on Monday just to get onto a track because there’s none in Ireland. We are on the track for eight or nine days and then we fly out to Tokyo to our host city, which is another flight in Japan and then we come back. We have about ten days to acclimatise before our actual races so that’s good,” she said.
Richael’s Paralympic Games start with a morning qualification for the 3km Track Pursuit in Tokyo on August 24th.
“Depending on how you get on in qualification, the medal ride-off is that evening. I’m not being unrealistic in the medal ride-off but fifth or sixth place would be really good. We have two track events and then we have two events on the road,” she said.
A former Irish soccer international, St. Croan’s and Roscommon footballer, Richael is still involved in local sport as a selector with the St. Croan’s Junior Ladies and as a member of Castlerea Cycling Club.
“It’s good to be still involved. I can’t play anymore so I did the cycling as the sport side of things but kept involved with St. Croan’s as well!
“I was always more into team sports…cycling is all solo. I’d be doing twenty hours a week on the bike and it would be all my own apart from when going for a club spin. I really enjoy it and come out of myself more when I’m in camp with the rest of the team,” she said.
Richael’s involvement in Para-Cycling stems from an acquired brain injury following radio surgery for a rare condition known as HHT (Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia).
“In 2015 I had radio surgery for a brain AVM, which is like a malformation of the artery. It was just supposed to be a one-day thing but unfortunately it led to swelling. Then in 2016, I just woke up and didn’t have any feeling down my right-hand side so we thought it was a stroke because the symptoms were similar,” she said.
“They did a scan in hospital and picked up on the swelling so the part of the brain that was hit by the radio surgery had swollen and it affected my motor skills on the right.
“The cycling came as something I could do at home and I was pure wobbly at first but my I’d get really tired walking and couldn’t run so it was something to do. It was GP in Castlerea, Dr. Madeleine Daly who said I should look into Para-Cycling”.
Her journey to the Paralympic Games started there, albeit rather tentatively.
“I didn’t realise I’d qualify at the time but I knew what Para-Sport was because I was so into sport. I was also knew hand-cyclist Mark Rohan from Athlone from being in AIT. I looked into it and went to one of the development league events. I told them I didn’t want to just take part that I wanted to really compete and they (the coaches) said they’d train me,” she said.
Ahead of the deferred Tokyo Games, Richael says she’ll be focusing on the track events.
“Mainly just because I don’t have the hours on the road done and obviously there was racing last year so it limited me in terms of what I could do. But I’ve been training and I’m going there in the best shape I possibly can.
“I’m going there to the best I possibly can and if the best I can do is eighth place then that’s great, if it’s a medal that’s brilliant. It’s going to be a fight and I haven’t seen the girls in a long time competing so you don’t know where people are at so you’re just throwing yourself in there,” she said.