Belfast Telegraph

Paralympic hero Michael McKillop: Waking up to see the gold medal on the bedside table was a huge relief

The four time paralympic track champion has written a series of blogs on his preparations for the Rio games.

Michael McKillop celebrates with his gold medal
Michael McKillop celebrates with his gold medal
11 September 2016; Michael McKillop of Ireland celebrates after winning the Men's 1500m T37 Final at the Olympic Stadium during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
11 September 2016; Michael McKillop of Ireland celebrates after winning the Men's 1500m T37 Final at the Olympic Stadium during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
Michael McKillop of Ireland celebrates with his gold medal after winning the Men's 1500m T37 Final at the Olympic Stadium during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
Michael McKillop enjoying some free time.
Teammates Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop with their gold medals.
The coveted gold medal.
Michael in training.

By Michael McKillop

As soon as I was walked off the track in Rio I was notified that I had to go for anti-doping and, after I'd done some media, I went to give a sample and it took me two hours. I was completely dehydrated - competing in 32 degrees didn't help - but I was able to pass an hour of it on the phone home to my fiancée Nicole and my family which was nice.

None of them travelled to Rio as I had reservations about their safety and didn't want to be worrying about that. Nicole watched it with her family, and my parents were with my sister and her husband at home while my other sister, who lives in England, watched it with her family. It was very exciting chatting to them all. My dad is my coach so, obviously, that was a slightly different call. On the one hand he's my dad and was so happy for me. But the second conversation was him asking me how I felt and getting feedback on the race itself.

Even though it wasn't a quick time my last lap was 63 seconds and I slowed down the last couple of metres, so I was working close to a 61-second final lap. For me to be able to close like that, after my training was curtailed before the Games, showed I had good strength there. We immediately analysed the race so we know what we have to do with the Canadian kid who took silver next year. He's a real talent who’s only going to get better and stronger. I'd watched him in training out here, I was out doing a tapered session one day and he was there doing 150m reps.

I don't know if he was trying to intimidate me or just psyched himself out but I could tell he had jets. He was pretty damn quick and I knew I had to push it hard and couldn't leave it until 150m to go. When I came across the line the first person I looked for in the crowd was Jason (Smyth) but I couldn't see him. Michael Bergin, who assists our throwers, gave me the Irish flag. He's given me a flag at every championships since Beijing (2008) so it seems to be my lucky flag. I had my lucky socks on too. They were a secret between my fiancée and I for the final. Brooks had produced them for St Patrick's Day last year and I'd saved a couple of pairs especially to wear in Rio.

By the time I'd done all the media, anti-doping and the medal ceremony I didn't get back to the village until 7pm, which was a long day after starting at 8:30 that morning. Once you're finished your body crashes, the adrenalin goes and you're just lying on your bed going 'Bloody hell, what was that all about?' I put the medal on the bedside table that night - you don't get the storage box until the following day - and being able to wake up and see it was a huge relief.

This year’s Paralympic medals have a noise built into them for the first time, to make them more accessible for visually impaired athletes and, I reckon, so Jason can use it as a rattle for his child.

Since then it's been really chilled and relaxed here. One of the good things to come out of only having one competition here is the amount of free time I've had since last Sunday. I've been chatting regularly, by phone, to Nicole. I've been away for three weeks so she’s on her own in the apartment we rent back in Jordanstown. We've just bought a house in Randalstown and are really looking forward to starting a new adventure together there. We were told it would be finished in October but it's a new build so it could be November. If we get in for Christmas we’ll be delighted.

For the first time myself and Jason have been able to get about and see other sports like wheelchair basketball and also to support our other Irish teammates here. We also got to visit Christ The Redeemer and the Sugarloaf but we waited to visit the Copacabana until Pat Monaghan was competing in the marathon when the whole athletics team went down to support him and had some fun on the beach and in the water. Like Jason I've continued to train since my final. When you train daily your body doesn't enjoy stopping completely. I used to take a break after racing but your body shuts down, the muscles and bones get tighter, so I did a session two or three days later and have done a few more since.

The last few days have started to get busy again. We had a team function at the embassy here and then the Closing Ceremony and we land home on September 21. Ordinarily there's a big crowd waiting to meet us at the airport but I'm really looking forward to getting up the road again. Like Jason I don't drink - we're the sober two! - so I'm just looking forward to sitting down with my family and Nicole again, to just having a cup of tea and a yarn.

On our way home we might stop off in our local Indian, that's always the big treat for me after all the training and racing. My favourite thing is Chicken Jalfrezi, pilau rice, naan bread and some poppadums. That, for me, is absolutely magnificent. I'll certainly enjoy this one.


Michael McKillop (26), from Glengormley, is a four-time Paralympic track champion in the T37 (Cerebral Palsy) category. He won his first, in Beijing 2008, when he was just 18, completed the 800/1500m double at London 2012 and has just won the T37m 1500m title in the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. He is also a seven-time IPC world champion and holds the T37 world records of 1:57.19 (800m) and 3:59.53 (800m). He has also competed for Ireland in able-bodied athletics and won Irish junior titles at cross-country and 1500m.

Michael is an Allianz sports and brand ambassador and will be writing a monthly blog around the 2016 Paralympic Games. Allianz is an official partner to Paralympics Ireland and global partner to the International Paralympics Committee (IPC).

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