Sunday 17 November 2019

Where are they now?

PAUL BRIZZEL

(Former athlete)

Many of today's top athletes started off playing team sports and made the transition to athletics. Double Olympian Paul Brizzel was no different; he started out playing schools rugby in Ballee High School and club rugby for Ballymena and he even earned a junior cap for Ulster.

In 1993, his rugby coach Jim McCormick brought him to the track to improve the winger's speed. Brizzel was a natural sprinter and it wasn't long before athletics became his focus.

He suffered a knee injury soon after deciding to concentrate on athletics which resulted in his progress being hindered for most of the next two years. It was a tough time but his determination didn't falter. In 1995, he was back to his best and even though he was the fourth fastest in Britain, he didn't get a spot on their squad for the European Junior Championships. He was disappointed of course but Britain's loss was Ireland's gain. Two years later, Brizzel broke the 21-second mark three times in the 200m at the European Under 23 Championships and finished fourth wearing the Irish colours.

Over the next few years he improved his times and qualified for the Sydney Olympics in the 100m and 200m, finishing sixth and fourth respectively in his heats. That year he also competed in the 4x100m relay, finishing fourth in the heat.

Four years later, he became a double Olympian when he qualified for Athens in the 200m but again he didn't progress past his heat.

For the first eight years of his career he was trained by Maeve Kyle before changing to Mike McFarlane, who was also coaching Dwayne Chambers.

Brizzel is based in Ballymena and is currently a sports therapist specialising in rehabilitation. He also coaches a small number of talented athletes who have won Ulster and Irish sprint titles.

Brizzel has been watching the London Games closely, studying sports he didn't watch before and learning from each one. It helps with his job.

"I'm constantly analysing body movements and how to introduce strength elements to enhance power," he says.

And as for the young athletes experiencing the Games for the first time, he feels that they won't go wrong if they listen to those who have been before and adapt accordingly. Brizzel knows how much sacrifice is made to achieve the Olympic dream. After all, he did it twice.

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