Thursday 29 September 2016

'Anything less than gold will be a failure for me' - Michael McKillop

Barry Lennon

Published 06/09/2016 | 02:30

Irish Paralympic Team member Michael McKillop. Photo: Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
Irish Paralympic Team member Michael McKillop. Photo: Paul Mohan/Sportsfile

Michael McKillop has his sights set firmly on bagging another gold at the Paralympic Games in Rio, believing anything less to be "a failure."

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McKillop is one of Ireland's best hopes for a victory, having defended his T37 class 800m title and collected 1500m honours in London 2012.

The Antrim man claims he is comfortable with the pressure as he prepares to take to the start-line for Sunday's 1500m final (his 800m classification is not in this year's Games).

"I have to come back with a gold medal or else everyone will regard the Games for me as a failure," he says. "That sits well with me because I go in expecting myself to win. So for me that's the exciting part, having to live up to people's expectations."

The 26-year-old's warm-up to Rio was hampered by an ankle injury he suffered falling down the stairs in a freak accident last year - it made the 2014-15 season a "non-runner".

"I wasn't in a good place personally. I struggled with everyday life due to not being able to train or do my job," he says.

Rio will not be the same as London, not least because he asked his family not to travel.

Vital

Despite describing them as part of "a vital network", McKillop is unfazed by their absence saying he "just doing a job" in Brazil.

As he takes to the track, his coach and father Paddy will be back teaching at St Malachy's while his fiancée and assistant coach Nicole Martin will also remain at home, working as an actuary in Belfast.

"You may think athletics is an individual sport but it's anything but - if it wasn't for my physiotherapist or my strength and conditioning coach, my family and friends, I wouldn't be standing on the track," McKillop adds.

However, he admits that mixing family and athletics has its drawback.

"There were occasions where the rest of the family would've preferred it if my dad and I just sat in silence and didn't mention athletics," he says.

McKillop will be forgiven this indulgence this week as he aims to return home with the right-coloured medal.

Irish Independent

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