IF 2019 was Phil Healy’s most challenging year yet, then she’s intent on ensuring that 2020 will be her most memorable.
It’s an Olympic year and the Ballineen bullet is determined to earn her place at the Tokyo Games next summer.
‘Everyone wants to go to the Olympics and I want to be there too,’ the 25-year-old Irish sprint queen said.
‘There will only be a small number of people from Ireland going and I want to be part of that. In November when I watched the Ireland women’s hockey team qualify, I thought to myself that I want to be on that plane with them.
I will do everything I can to put myself in the best possible position for the upcoming indoor season so I can get the best possible times that I need to guarantee my place in Tokyo.
Even though she didn’t break any national records in 2019, Healy insists she finished the year a better athlete than she began. It was a year that challenged her on and off the track. Mentally, she’s now stronger. Physically, she feels better.
She powered into 2019 off the back of a sensational and record-breaking 2018 season that saw her smash national records, set new personal bests (PBs) and become Ireland’s fastest-ever woman over 100m and 200m.
When Healy ran a 23.04 in the 200m at the Irish University Championships last April, just five hundredths of a second off her national record, the signs were very positive. Then disaster struck and her entire season came under threat.
On a warm-weather training camp in Malta, while walking on the cobbled streets of Valetta, she went over on her ankle. The damage was serious - she broke the fifth metatarsal in her foot. That put her place at her last World University Championships under serious threat.
Twelve weeks after suffering the freak injury, she raced a 200m heat at the World Universities in Naples. It was a triumph to even get herself in a position to race, but the injury caught up with her. She went on to compete at the World Athletics Championships in Doha in September but missed out on the semi-finals.
‘I remember watching an interview with Gary O’Donovan at a regatta and he was saying how he didn’t have practice in the boat after the wrist injury he had suffered earlier in the year, and that’s the same with running,’ Healy said.
‘You can be doing all the different training, but if you are not on your feet, doing the same sessions with the same intensity, then you are not prepared the same way as everyone else is.
‘Heading into the World Universities I didn’t have the consistency of putting races back to back.’
If not for that unfortunate injury, Healy feels she was on course for some special times in 2019. Specifically, her national record of 22.99 in the women’s 200m was under threat.
‘I ran 23.04 in early April at the Irish Universities, on my own, in the cold and in my fourth race of the weekend. If I took that on to the rest of the summer I have no doubt that I could have ran 22.5 and 22.6 but I didn’t get that opportunity, so that gives me the hunger to go out, work harder and go after it now, and make sure I do break more records.’
Considering the Olympic qualifying standard for the women’s 200m is 22.80, Healy needs to take almost two tenths of a second off her national record to guarantee her spot in Tokyo, but there is also a new qualification system in place too.
Right now, the reigning West Cork Sports Star of the Year is on target to qualify for the Olympics.
‘With this new ranking system it’s an average of your five best times over a certain distance,’ the Bandon AC star explained.
‘There is no security now unless you have a good score and you are well within the ranking of the top 56 places. Each race is weighted with different points for different races so you need to put yourself into the right races.
‘At the moment I am ranked 36th out of 56 so I am well within the rankings right now. As of now I am going to Tokyo, and it’s about lowering that ranking, into the 20s, so there will be less of a chance of me dropping 30-something places.
‘This season is about getting those points indoors, running over 200m.’
That’s why Healy will focus on the 200m more so than the 100m and 400m, though
she will go up and down when she can. What would help is if she ran the qualifying standard.
‘The end of June is the final closing date for us, it’s when our national championships are, so along the way I will get in the races that I need and try to run that 22.80 if I possibly can. There is no reason why I can’t run it. If I didn’t break my foot I definitely think I could have run 22.80 and secured my spot in Tokyo.’
The 2020 World Indoor Championships in China and the 2020 European Athletics Championships in France, the latter two weeks after the Olympics, are other notable events in 2020, but it’s all about Tokyo for Healy.