THE LAST WORD by sports editor Kieran McCarthy
PHIL Healy’s new three-year sponsorship deal with UPMC is a game-changer for the Ballineen bullet.
She is Ireland’s fastest-ever woman and is also closing in on the Olympic Games in Tokyo, but she’s also human like the rest of us and shares the same worries and stresses.
‘You don’t make a profit in this sport, that’s for certain,’ Healy explains.
The queen of Irish women’s sprinting, the woman who is raising the bar and leading the charge, receives just €12,000 per year in Sport Ireland funding. Just let that sink in for a moment. That’s €1,000 per month. Out of that comes her rent in Waterford, fuel for her car (hat-tip here to Nyhan Motors in Bandon who have sponsored Healy a car for the year and brought her on board as a brand ambassador), food, day-to-day living, etc. There’s little change there, if any at all.
Then add in that Healy is a full-time athlete, and the costs associated with that, including training camps abroad, yet despite the financial obstacles she is still the best at what she does. That’s a testament to her talent, her work ethic and the environment that her coach Shane McCormack has created, rather than the system.
There are three tiers to the International Carding Scheme that provides financial support to athletes for their training and competitions – Podium athletes receive €40,000 per year, World Class athletes receive €20,000 per year while International athletes received €12,000 per year.
How Healy, who set the Irish 100m record in June 2018, is still at the International level of €12,000 per year is staggering considering her talent, her records, how she is changing Irish women’s sprinting and how she could also – touch wood – be competing in three events at the Olympics.
Healy won’t complain. That’s not her style. She’s a worker. She will put her head down and train. But she’s had to put her hand into her own pocket to fund her dreams, too. If she is racing at international events, and not in the Ireland vest, she pays for that herself – flights, hotel, entry fee, taxis, food, etc. In recent weeks, as she chases ranking points for Olympic qualification, Healy has raced in Belfast, The Netherlands and Sweden. Again, that’s not cheap.
That’s why, too, it’s a huge boost when a sponsor like UPMC come on board and gives Healy their backing. Like when Nyhans give her a sponsored car for the year. It eases the external day-to-day pressures that allow her focus on running faster than ever before.
UPMC recently opened a new sports medicine centre in the WIT Arena in Waterford where Healy does all her gym training, so she has that facility available to her. That’s access to a sports medicine doctor, a physio, a physiologist and more, everything she needs to be the best she can be. That’s the difference a sponsor can make to an athlete.
‘The €12,000 is a help and I am very grateful to Sport Ireland for that, but at the end of the day I am a professional athlete. The sport is so hard and demanding that it is very hard to work at the same time, balance a full-time job and train to the standard you need to train at,’ Healy explains.
‘If you want to make your dream a reality, you need to get to that extra level. I am very grateful to have the help of so many sponsors, especially with UPMC coming on board for three years so that gives me a security there.
‘You have to live day-to-day as well, pay rent and all these things, so sponsors definitely help athletes move to the next level.
‘That extra sponsorship, that extra backing, it’s security for an athlete and it takes that worry away. Things are hard enough as it is, and with Covid the prices of everything have gone up and travelling abroad to races is much harder.’
Given Healy receives just €12,000 in Sport Ireland funding – remember, she finished fourth at the European Indoors earlier this year – it makes her exploits all the more remarkable. She deserves to be further up the International Carding Scheme ranking. Healy is a world-class athlete that missed out on a medal at the European Indoors by just two tenths of a second in a stacked field. There, the West Cork woman proved she is amongst the elite. She captured the attention of the nation, too.
And soon she will take her place amongst the best in the world at the Olympics and we’ll know this time next week how many events she’ll race in at the Games. Healy will focus on the women’s 400m at this weekend’s national senior championships where victory will push her further up the rankings before the qualification window shuts next Tuesday, June 29th.
‘If I can win at the nationals I will get 100 bonus points, that would certainly boost my rankings and that’s what I am banking on but it will come down to conditions on the day. I am ranked 44 out of 48 at the moment in the women’s 400,’ Healy explained. She’s also in a strong position to qualify in the women’s 200m, as well as be named on the Irish 4x400m mixed relay team that she helped qualify for the Games, so, potentially, Healy could race in three events in her first Olympics. These are exciting times for Healy ahead of the biggest event of her life, and the support of her sponsors have helped turn her dreams into a reality. Every little helps.