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Going for Gold Paralympian Greta's dream to run for Ireland in rescheduled Olympic Games


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Paralympic athlete Greta Streimikyte has started her winter training programme

Paralympic athlete Greta Streimikyte has started her winter training programme

SPORTSFILE

Paralympic athlete Greta Streimikyte has started her winter training programme

Irish paralympian Greta Streimikyte has spoken of her dream of representing Ireland again when the Tokyo Paralympics is rescheduled for next year.

Like thousands of athletes, Greta and her teammates should have been competing in what would have been the biggest ever games this autumn.

Instead, the runner, who moved her with her family from Lithuania a decade ago, is knuckling down into her winter training programme in a bid to be stronger and faster when the games finally take place.

She took home a bronze medal in the T13 1500m in the 2016 games and won gold in the 2018 World Championships.

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Greta after winning gold in the Women’s T13 1500m in the 2018 World Para Athletics European Championships in Berlin. Photo:  Luc Percival/Sportsfile

Greta after winning gold in the Women’s T13 1500m in the 2018 World Para Athletics European Championships in Berlin. Photo: Luc Percival/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Greta after winning gold in the Women’s T13 1500m in the 2018 World Para Athletics European Championships in Berlin. Photo: Luc Percival/Sportsfile

"To be honest I look at this time as an opportunity, an extra year to train. As an athlete you always say: 'What if we had an extra few months?' I'm using this time to see where I can do better, where can I improve.

"The hardest part for me was not knowing if they were going to take place. The hope was still there before the official announcement but once I heard the news I decided to focus on the positive. I was like: 'This is great! It's going to make me faster and stronger'."

Greta, who is one of our top paralympics athletes, was left completely blind after being born prematurely as one of a set of triplets. Two rounds of surgery to save her sight didn't work out, but her parents saved to bring her to Sweden for a groundbreaking form of surgery which saved some sight in her left eye.

It's their determination to help their daughter that she focuses on as she represents Ireland. "I have one sister and one brother. We were born at eight months," she says. "We were all put into an incubator but I was the weakest one. There was more oxygen given to me and that damaged my retina. I had two surgeries straight away and they didn't work.

"My parents were so determined to get me to Sweden for the surgery and get the money to be able to travel. If that's not an example of determination, I don't know what is. And if I'm having a day where I'm thinking: 'Why am I not going faster?' I think of that story and that keeps me going."

Reunited

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Greta won a bronze medal in the T13 1500m at the 2016 IPC Athletic European Championships in Italy

Greta won a bronze medal in the T13 1500m at the 2016 IPC Athletic European Championships in Italy

SPORTSFILE

Greta won a bronze medal in the T13 1500m at the 2016 IPC Athletic European Championships in Italy

Incredibly, the 25-year-old didn't run competitively until she moved to Ireland with her family almost a decade ago. Her father, Raimundas, had already been working here for five years and the family wanted to be properly reunited.

"As a family we decided it would be better for us to come to Ireland. It would allow us to learn English and study here as well.

"I was very excited to come here.

"I always like to start something new, and go to a new culture, but also I knew I was going to see my dad every day.

"We came as teenagers so we were making friends. I could speak English but it wasn't great. The first year wasn't easy but it's about adapting and it's a process that you have to go through. When you come to a new country there's a lot of new things.

"I think it's the way my parents raised me. When you have less vision you learn to adapt to different situations. You learn how to go with it and how to go about it. You learn how to be a bit flexible. I would find a way to make it work, that was always my attitude."

Although she comes from a sporty family and was always very active, Greta, who lives in Dublin, never dreamed that one day she would be a full-time athlete.

"When I came to Ireland I gave it a go at the Community Games. I would have never thought I was going to be a runner. I did a race for school and came second - my PE teacher said: 'Maybe you could represent Ireland in the Paralympic Games'. I joined Clonliffe Harriers and started to fall in love with athletics."

Last month she started her winter training programme, featuring various long runs, drills and gym sessions six days a week. Less restrictive Covid measures this time around mean she can train at her club with her team mates within guidelines and measures.

"When the first lockdown came we were doing a few more laps than usual in the 2k!" she laughs. I would have been starting a new training season. In that way nothing's really changed. With second lockdown at the moment it's great to still have an opportunity to train in the Sports Ireland facilities and train as a group."

Focused

Having experienced success in the green kit for Ireland, she will spend the next year focusing on going to Tokyo in 2021.

"Tokyo was sold out for the Paralympic Games and it was amazing to hear, the atmosphere would have been incredible. People coming and watching you means so much.

"If you have a goal you're focused and determined and you know what you have to achieve to get there. Sometimes you want it to happen too quickly and I've definitely learned patience in the last few years. Being disciplined is also really important, showing up every day.

"The first games I was so proud to be able to represent Ireland on the highest stage. I was proud and grateful and I still am. To be able to compete, and that Irish vest allows you to do that. And the support I get has been remarkable."

Greta Streimikyte is an ambassador for Fighting Blindness. The charity supports people living with sight loss in Ireland. Find out more about their services and how to donate at fightingblindness.ie

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