Comerford goes from zero to 100 with scholarly outlook

by James Hendicott

IF ORLA Comerford’s emergence onto the Paralympic scene in time for the Rio Games last year was something of a dramatic one, her trip to London to take part in the 2017 World Paralympic Championships later this month will be much more conventional.
Comerford traveled to Brazil almost straight off the back of her leaving cert last summer, a move she described as “zero to one hundred” as she jumped in the deep end of a first major championship.
The Raheny Shamrocks club runner has been competing since the age of six and does battle in the visually impaired T13 category, reaching the final in the 100 metres last summer.
Now a student at NCAD, she feels more prepared this time around.
“It’s going really well,” Comerford told the Gazette. “The competitive season so far has been good; the main difference from last year is that I’ve come through all the rehab for a long-term injury and I’m feeling a little more confident. I seem to be able to get through a little more prep without getting injured.
“I’m not really sure what I’ll be up against in London as there are often people out there you don’t know about,” she adds.

“New people are classified before races, and other people move categories, for example between T12 and T13.
“You think you know who you’ll be facing, but there are often a couple of people running good times who you haven’t come across before. I’m expecting a lot of the same competition as in Rio, but also a few new young people, or people who’ve moved into my category.”
In between the two major championships, Comerford made the brave decision to attend NCAD, a college with no athletic pedigree to speak of, turning down scholarships at more sport-leaning universities like UCD and UL.
“It was a really hard decision to make but I’m very artistic minded, and I wanted to put together a portfolio and have a go,” she explains.
“I said I’d only try once and if I didn’t get in, I’d treat that as what’s meant to happen.
“They’ve been understanding about training camps and competitions and things like that, so it’s been great. I’ve been training with the same group at Raheny for years, and I’ve had the same coach for quite a while now, so I have plenty of support elsewhere.”
As for aims for London? “It’s hard to say, it comes down to the race on the day,” Comerford tells us.
“I always look at times, of course, and good times do tend to mean good results, but what happens on the day is what really matters.”

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