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‘Nicola is resilient, tough and can deal with anything thrown at her’

June 7th, 2024 6:00 AM

By Kieran McCarthy

‘Nicola is resilient, tough and can deal with anything thrown at her’ Image
Nicola Tuthill is through to the European final on Monday night.

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WHEN Killian Barry received a phone call from David Sweeney in Athletics Ireland to say there’s a young girl attending Coláiste na Toirbhirte in Bandon that’s showing ‘a bit of potential’ with the hammer, little did he know he’d soon be coaching one of the rising stars of Irish athletics.

‘Nicola had just finished her Junior Cert in the summer when I started working with her,’ Barry told The Southern Star.

‘I actually had links to the area because my soon-to-be-wife Fiona is from Innishannon and attended Coláiste na Toirbhirte herself.’

It started off with Barry making the trek from Dublin to West Cork, and Tuthill making the opposite journey to the capital – and it developed from there as he became her throws coach, and is part of the coaching set-up, along with Roland Korom (gym), that has helped Tuthill to become the number one women’s hammer thrower in Ireland.

Barry has watched her rapid development from a front-row seat so he’s not that surprised Tuthill, only 20 years old, has qualified for her first European Athletics Championships this weekend. She has made it a habit of exceeding expectations.

‘I would say Nicola is slightly ahead of schedule,’ Barry explained.

‘It’s a sport that normally you’d peak in your late 20s and early 30s. It’s rare enough that there would be a major senior championships to attend for such a young athlete, so I’d say it’s ahead of schedule for a 20-year-old to be competing at that level. You don’t see it too often, but it’s something we are used to with Nicola because she has done so many things ahead of schedule, whether it was winning the nationals at 16 and throwing 60 metres then. Am I surprised? Probably not.’

When Tuthill set a new personal best of 70.32m late last month – the monster throw that helped her qualify for the Europeans – it saw her break the 70-metre barrier for the first time.

‘It is a significant barrier to break, a major achievement, and there’s a psychological aspect to it too,’ Barry said. ‘Ireland has only had one female thrower, Eileen O’Keeffe, do it in the past; she was a World Championship finalist.’

Tuthill is taking it all in her stride, and she won’t be fazed by the Europeans this Sunday morning when the women’s hammer throw qualifying sessions take place. Instead, Irish senior women’s hammer champion Tuthill will soak in the experience and enjoy being in a world-class environment against the best in Europe. Still so young, Tuthill is built for the big stages.

‘Whenever I get asked about what makes Nicola stand out, I jump to the psychological side of her approach; she is a very resilient person and has demonstrated that so much already,’ Barry said.

‘Whether it’s her ability to compete at international level or dealing with the injury that she had in 2022, she has a very resilient, tough nature. She is able to deal with anything that is thrown at her.

‘In terms of the physical element she has been really diligent in all the components that you need to be a top hammer thrower, whether it’s her strength development or power development she has done it in a steady and appropriate way over the years. From a technical aspect, Nicola has developed a really great technique, is very consistent, and she puts a huge amount of time into that.’

Tuthill has so many pieces to the jigsaw already, and lining up against the best in Europe this weekend is another step on her journey to the top.

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