Despite the disappointment of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Michael McKillop isn’t ready to give up on athletics just yet.
The 31-year-old finished eighth in the T38 1500m final at the Games earlier this month, a surprising and devastating result for the four-time Paralympic gold medalist.
While his emotions got the better of him after the race, speaking upon his return to Ireland, the Allianz ambassador confirmed that he has no intention of retiring.
“It’s funny because a lot of people have talked about retirement and in the interview I gave, I didn’t confirm anything there. Coming home, I’ve spoken to my parents and my wife and obviously I’m slightly on a break at the moment and haven’t fully thought about it but a lot of people talk about the itch and unfortunately I didn’t get to scratch the itch fully in Tokyo, due to the poor performance and whatever happened, so I don’t believe that I will be completely stepping away from athletics at this stage.
“I believe there’s an itch that’s still there and I need to give a better representation of myself before departing the sport.”
While the Paris Games are three years away, McKillop is taking his career year-by-year, with his next focus being the World Championships in Kobe in 2022.
“I think if I had have been competitive and missed out on a medal that would have been a little bit more satisfactory, but because of what went on in the race and completely not having a performance that lived up to my expectations, my coach’s expectations or just in general in terms of time, I think there’s a greater chance of me continuing on to compete in Kobe next year, definitely.
“I think a lot of what other people think of me and don’t want people to think that I’ve gone back on my word, I still stand on Paris will 99% not happen but I always hope that something could go really seriously right and I could pick up a medal in the world championships, but we just don’t know until the world championships next.
“My plan is my head is to give it one last shot and get on that podium, and I believe that is possible, but I guess I’ve got to get my head down, shut up and get the work done because I can’t go on my history anymore, I haven’t medalled at two championships so if I really want to be taken seriously, I’ve got to put myself in a better position to be able to deal with the pressure and perform on the night.”
While he is uncertain whether or not he will be at the next Games, McKillop has backed his teammate and fellow Allianz ambassador Jason Smyth to make it to Paris.
Smyth won his sixth Paralympic gold medal in dramatic fashion in Tokyo, the 34-year-old overcoming major hurdles in the build-up to the tournament.
McKillop believes that if Smyth can keep his body right, there is no reason why he cannot reach the podium once again.
“I believe Jason can go on because he’s such an amazing competitor. The only one thing, and he might have said the same, that the only thing that would probably stop him would be his body. I think his frustrations of a few niggles that he picked up within the build up to Tokyo wasn’t ideal but he still pulled it out of the bag because he has a big performance in him.
“Jason like myself has got a massive legacy that he’s had in the sport. But he doesn’t owe anyone anything, he’s had an exceptional career. I believe he could if he wanted to go to Paris but it’s entirely up to him. Obviously he has other ambitions not on the track as well. He wants to be known for something more than just athletics, we all have dreams and aspirations after our sport and hopefully when the time comes for him to hang the spikes up like myself that we can do it in the best possible way and represent ourselves in the best possible way.
“If Jason wants to go to Paris I believe he can and he definitely could go on and win a medal and hopefully gold. It will all depend on how next year goes and take it year by year I believe, that’s exactly the position I’m in, I’ll be taking it year by year. We both have ambitions, for me personally to get back on the podium but for Jason to continue the legacy and the unbeaten streak that he has. Whatever he does he’s represented himself well over the last decade and a half and I’m excited to see what he does. He’s one of my best friends, we’ve enjoyed so many amazing times together and hopefully he gets what he deserves.”
Pictured in his native Randalstown, Antrim is Allianz’ Paralympic brand ambassador Michael McKillop. Allianz Ireland has been a proud partner of Paralympics Ireland since 2010 and has partnered with Michael for five years. Today, Allianz has welcomed back Michael after his courageous performance over the weekend.