Saturday 16 December 2017

'I recover more quickly than any other athlete on the team'

ANATOMY OF A CHAMPION

What makes Paralympic swim star Darragh McDonald so good in the water?

SPEED OF STROKE

"What I lose in the length of my levers I make up for in my (shorter) right arm being able to turn over so fast. At UCD the others are able to consistently turn over 30 strokes over 50 metres but I'm coming in at 60 to 70 strokes, I can do double their strokes. Technically, you can get tired more quickly, but somehow it works for me."

STARTS

McDonald starts in the water, unlike most of his competitors, who have the advantage of a block start, but he is particularly fast over those first 30m after using what amounts to a back-stroke start. "If you look at my 400m Olympic final I'm behind for the first 50m and then I come past them all, it's my favourite image from the Olympics."

LUNG CAPACITY

My VO2 max (oxygen intake during intense activity) is a third larger than the average person. In 2010 I was having pains in my chest and absolutely freaking out because we thought it might be a heart problem, but it was diagnosed as severe exercise-induced asthma and during those tests they also discovered I had this very big VO2 max, which is really good for endurance events."

Quick recovery ability

"My lactate levels go down quicker than any other athlete on the Paralympic team. I think it comes from doing few swim-downs when I trained in Arklow. It's like the lactate learned to disperse itself quickly without any physical movement and my body got used to that. It generally means I can recover quickly after hard exercise."

Strong mental game

"In Paralympic sport a lot of the categories are unfair – the anatomies can be very different – but it's impossible to make them completely fair. In my category (S6), for example, the Swedish guy who was beating me for years has two arms and two legs.

"People told me I'd never beat him because he's so much more able-bodied than me. In Paralympic sport you get some athletes complaining 'oh, I'm in the wrong category, I've got to get recategorised', it's like they're looking for an excuse.

"I was like, okay, I'm at the low end of my category and he's at the other end but I don't care, I can't control that, I just have to take him on, and eventually I did beat him."

Irish Independent

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