Categories: Golf Other Sports

Rio Memories Driving Leona Maguire Forward Despite Olympics Delay

This was certainly not the way Leona Maguire saw 2020 going for her.

Her first-ever time on the LPGA Tour was supposed to bring her around the world before she fulfilled another dream by once again representing Ireland at an Olympic Games, this time in Tokyo.

The year started so well for the Cavan native. In her second-ever event on the LPGA Tour, she finished T-4 at the ISPS Handa Vic Open in Australia, just one shot outside of the three-way sudden-death play-off.

And then the coronavirus hit. Their tour of China was cancelled with events in the US up until May following suit with more postponements on the cards.

The word we’ve gotten from the tour is that they’re going to take it three events at a time. They were postponed up to the second week in May,” Maguire told Pundit Arena.

“We don’t know, Florida just announced a lockdown yesterday, closed all golf courses so we have to just wait and see.

“It’s a case of keep ticking over, make sure I do my gym work, my practice so that whenever we get the green light from the LPGA we’ll be ready to go. No one really knows, a few weeks ago we thought for sure we’d be playing in Arizona and it was pulled but I suppose they’ll get us back out there whenever it’s safe to do so.”

On Tuesday, Maguire, like thousands of other athletes worldwide, was dealt a devastating blow with the news that the Olympic Games, that she had been aspiring to and training for, are postponed until 2021. In some ways, she is lucky. She has the memory of Rio 2016 to carry her through unlike those who had been mentally preparing themselves for their first Games and now must reimagine it all. In other ways, she’s unlucky. Maguire knows how magical an Olympics can be and is now forced to wait a year longer for that feeling to return.

“It’s the best thing I’ve ever been a part of”, she says of her experience in Rio four years ago.

“You grow up watching the Olympics on TV, Sydney is the first one I remember, watching Sonia winning her silver. I was big into the swimming back then so I enjoyed watching Grant Hackett and Ian Thorpe and those Aussie guys win their medals, then watching Katie winning her gold in London.

“It was surreal. Golf was one of the later ones so we weren’t out there for the Opening Ceremony so I was watching bits the week before then all of a sudden you were in the village and you were having breakfast and Serena Williams was walking in and Mike Phelps just walks past, it’s very surreal. It doesn’t really seem real at the time but you’re still there to compete yourself.

“One of the aspects I enjoyed the most was staying in the village with the rest of the Irish team and going to support other events, going to watch other Irish athletes compete that you read about and you hear about and you meet them every year at the awards ceremonies and stuff around Christmas time and going out to the institute but to actually get to watch them compete was quite good for me.

“You represent your country every week you compete but representing your country at the Olympics is a different level altogether, it’s the biggest sporting event in the world.”

Yet the 25-year-old, who turned professional in 2018, is a very grounded character. While postponements are disappointing, they are not the end of the world and the health and safety of everyone involved is much more important.

“It’s definitely disappointing but I don’t think any of us were shocked by the decision. We’d heard rumblings for a few weeks and then the qualifiers started getting cancelled and then it was becoming a race against the clock to get everything in by the time the end of July/start of August rolled around. In the interest of everyone’s safety…

“I know there were a lot of athletes stressing over getting practice done and where to get practice done. Obviously, I would have loved to go to Tokyo this summer but at the same time, if they can put on the same thing next year, hopefully, it’ll be in a lot more positive circumstances and hopefully, it’ll be just as good if not better.”

Her ability to put everything into perspective is admirable. Instead of grumbling about golf courses being closed and travel restrictions, she focuses instead on being able to spend precious time with her family, something Maguire has been rarely able to do in the past number of years.

However, this is not a time of rest and relaxation. The LPGA Tour will return, though no one knows exactly when, and she must be prepared. When she does return to the golf course, Maguire will treasure it even more as a result of these unprecedented times.

“We were supposed to go to 23 countries this year, we got to do the Australia trip which is always my favourite. It was nice to start the season on a high note, I was expecting to go to China and then a big US swing and then back to the West Coast, go to Hawaii for the first time…

“There were a lot of firsts to be ticked off this year. Those will have to wait till next year.

“I’d love to be out competing at the moment but there are a lot bigger things going on in the world and sport has to take a back seat. You have to look at the bigger picture.

“Once this all gets back running, we’ll be hungry and appreciate more that we’re lucky to get to do what we do. Sometimes you take it for granted when you’re going from country to country but we are very lucky.”

Stay tuned for part two of our interview with Leona Maguire later this week.

Marisa Kennedy @MarisaK96

Marisa is a Digital Journalist with Pundit Arena. You can contact her at marisa@punditarena.com or on Twitter

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