BY KIERAN McCARTHY
SHE holds a world record in powerlifting and has now set her sights on winning gold in the shot putt at the National Indoor Championships this weekend.
Laura McSweeney (22), from Bandon Athletic Club, is regarded as one of the top women in Irish shot putt and she’s bidding for the big prize on Saturday at the National Indoor Arena in Abbotstown.
She has previously won two bronze medals at the indoor nationals and given her impressive form already this season, Laura hopes to be in the mix again this Saturday.
‘I hope to medal this weekend,’ the Bandon athlete said.
‘I’m not looking too far ahead. I will take the competitions as they come and try and improve my PB (13.16).
‘Qualifying for the European U23 Championships in Poland in July is another aim as well. I have to hit the qualifying target by June, that’s 14.50 so I need a new PB. The way I feel at the moment, that’s achievable.’
Already this year, the former UCC student has won gold at the U20/U23 indoor nationals in Athlone and she also finished first in the shot putt at the recent National Indoor League Final after a season best throw of 12.38, so she’s confident ahead of this weekend’s senior nationals.
‘I have seen a lot of improvement over the last few months. I’ve had three competitions this year and at each one I’ve been better than the previous one so it’s going in the right direction,’ she said.
‘I feel good and I know there’s more in me, I can improve.’
Claire Fitzgerald (Tralee Harriers) and Michaela Walsh (Swinford AC) are regarded as the top two in Ireland for the women’s shot putt but Laura, in third place, is on an upward curve and feels her best is yet to come.
‘You can peak in the shot putt when you’re 26 years old, I only turned 22 last month so I’ve a good bit to go,’ she said.
Laura has competed internationally several times in the past, including at the European Junior Club Track and Field athletics championships in Portugal in 2014 where she won gold in the shot putt and came third in the hammer. She’s also competed at various Celtic Games and at the university championships in Scotland last May.
What makes Laura’s story even more interesting is her powerlifting background. She started powerlifting when she began as an Arts student in UCC in 2013 and before long she set a world record for the deadlift in her category, a record she has broken several times and now holds at a whopping 167.5kg.
Laura competed on the European and world stage in powerlifting – but athletics is still her number one.
Introduced to athletics when she was seven, thanks to Niamh Harrington, Laura tried out a few sports before turning her attention to the shot putt, though she has competed in both the hammer throw and the discus, too.
‘I’ve concentrated on the shot putt for the last 18 months and I can see the improvement,’ she said.
‘You can’t just go and throw it. There’s a lot more to it than that. In training you have to do weights, cardio, flexibility and practise your technique, you need to combine all the different elements then.
‘You can improve your technique every time; it’s never going to be perfect.’
Training six days a week, Laura has advice for would-be shot putters: ‘If you get too tense when you’re throwing it’s not going to be as good as it could be. You need to relax and trust in your training.
‘I find that when I don’t think about it, that works better for me. If I think too much about where my feet are going to land, then I know the throw won’t go well. It’s about memory.’
Laura’s older brother Patrick also competes in the shot putt for Bandon AC and she admits there’s a healthy rivalry between the two at home – but they are also each others biggest supporters, along with their parents.
The McSweeneys will be out in force at the National Indoor Championships in Dublin this weekend, cheering on Laura and Patrick, as they bid for more national success.