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It has been said so often that sport can be cruel but when you’re on the outside looking in, you can’t really grasp how true that is.
I got a glimpse into that tonight speaking to Michael McKillop after his T37/38 1500m final disappointment in which he finished eighth. He was visibly upset, taking time to compose himself before facing the media. It’s impossible not to be affected by that.
McKillop is a legend of Irish sport and went out to give his all in that final and it’s heartbreaking to see an athlete conclude that their all is no longer enough.
These Games have been filled with so much joy for Team Ireland with seven medals overall and personal bests galore. That level of success almost makes you feel like you have an invincibility cloak surrounding you where nothing could possibly go wrong. But sport has a way of teaching you the harshest lessons at the most inopportune times. You can guarantee that every Irish Paralympian will feel the pain of Michael McKillop tonight, despite how they themselves performed in the Games. That’s what it means to be part of a team.
It’s funny, when you’re a reporter at such events, you neither have time to savour wins or mourn losses straight after the race. As soon as that finish line is crossed, you are out of your seat and down to the ‘mixed zone’ where competitors talk to the media. God forbid an athlete makes a quick dash through the area and you miss your chance to speak to them.
A legend not only in Ireland but across all #ParaAthletics
Has inspired the next generation. 💚
— Marisa Kennedy (@MarisaK96) September 4, 2021
Tonight that meant that I didn’t see the heartfelt moment when a distraught McKillop was comforted by his fellow runners on the track. It didn’t matter that three of them had just won medals while the rest were dealing with their own disappointment, they all took turns in hugging and speaking to him. It just shows how respected Michael McKillop is in this field. A champion, a legend, an inspiration, now and forever.
The Games officially wrap up tomorrow with the Wheelchair Marathon in the morning and the Closing Ceremony bringing the curtain down on Tokyo 2020 in the evening. I’m dreading having to write tomorrow’s blog because that will mean having to sum up my feelings about the last two weeks and that is going to be a near-impossible task.