PHIL Healy had a decision to make. It was either the World Championships in July or the Europeans in August. Racing in both wasn’t a runner.
‘With two major outdoor championships in the one summer, it would be very hard to peak for both of them,’ she explains.
Something had to give.
So, the Ballineen Bullet skipped the Worlds in Oregon last month to put all her focus on the Europeans in Munich (August 15th to 21st) – and she hopes it will pay off.
‘We decided to target the Europeans,’ Healy says.
‘We pushed training out much longer and that’s why in June we weren’t race sharp. There’s a long summer there and we want to make sure I am firing on all cylinders for Munich.’
It took Healy longer than she had expected to get back on track after testing positive for Covid-19 ahead of the World Indoors in March. That pushed training out. The focus was then switched to endurance work rather than speed. Then she suffered through a heavy block of training this summer. It goes some way – though Healy would never offer it as an excuse – to explain why the Olympian relinquished her women’s 400m title at the outdoor Irish championships in June. She was playing the long game, with Munich on her mind.
‘Everything is going really well now,’ Healy says.
‘You always want to race when you are in peak shape to race. It was testing during the summer because we didn’t have all the pieces of the jigsaw put together yet, but that will stand to me, knowing I can do that even though I wasn’t sharp. In the last few weeks it’s been winding up nicely.’
Healy has been selected to race in the women’s 400m and with the Irish women’s 4x400m relay at the Europeans.
The schedule is kinder to West Cork’s fastest-ever woman than at the Olympics in Tokyo last summer when her efforts with the Irish 4x400m mixed relay team hurt her chances in her individual events. She was drained, physically, by the time it came to focus on herself.
In Munich Healy will race the heats of the women’s 400m on Monday evening (15th), hopefully advancing to the semi-finals on Tuesday morning, with the European final on Wednesday.
‘I want to get to that semi-final. Anything can happen there. The way it is right now you have to be on top of your game,’ explains Healy whose outdoor season’s best of 51.82 is still off her PB of 51.50. She knows she needs to hit top gear in Munich, given the competition and system in place.
‘At the Europeans they have a funny rule whereby the top 12 ranked athletes in the season get a bye straight into the semi-finals. Whether it’s fair or not, you just have to get on with it. It means some have to race more than others,’ the 27-year-old says.
‘The field is stacked. Even look at the Worlds, European athletes placed so high, and now you have the top athletes who only have to do two rounds (semi-final and final).’
Healy will have a few days off before the heats of the women’s 4x400m relay start on Friday. On paper Ireland has a very strong team. It includes Healy, the in-form Rhasidat Adeleke (Tallaght AC), Irish 400m champion Sophie Becker (Raheny Shamrock), Sharlene Mawdsley (Newport AC), Cliodhna Manning (Kilkenny City Harriers) and Roisin Harrison (Emerald AC). Healy has high hopes.
‘We can definitely be in the final. If we don’t get to the final, I would be very disappointed, given the potential of this team,’ she says. At the World Indoors in March the quartet of Healy, Becker, Mawdsley and Harrisson clocked 3:30.97 to break the national record, but missed out on the world final by six hundredths of a second. The potential – and speed – is there.
‘Realistically we should have been in the world indoor final. The Polish and the Brits will be the favorites in Munich, it opens up after the top three and I think we should certainly be in the top six. We have that potential.’
Time to deliver on that potential, as Healy hopes her decision to focus on the Europeans reaps its rewards.