Search icon


24th Aug 2021

Paralympian Richael Timothy: “Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something, you really can do whatever you want”

Ellen Fitzpatrick

“Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something, you really can do whatever you want.”

It’s been a rocky road for Paralympian Richael Timothy but as she heads for Tokyo, her sight is set on making Roscommon proud and moving onwards and upwards.

After her football career was cut short in 2017 when she was diagnosed with an acquired brain injury, Richael not only had to learn to walk again, but managed to get on a bicycle and jump straight back into sport.

“I remember I went 10 meters and I fell off because of balance. But I was like, oh, I got 10 meters. It was ten meters further than I got doing anything else,” the Ballymore native said.

“I just looked up Cycling Ireland, got in contact with the development coach there and he was like there’s something in Cork next week that was basically the way it was.

“I turned up to that just on a normal bike. They were so excited to see a girl. It was obviously just Katie [George Dunlevy] and Eve [McCrystal] at the time and then there were no other females on the team. So he was like we’ll take you, that’s where it all started.”

After going to two events, Richael knew this wasn’t going to be just “for fun”, she wanted to compete.

“I have that competitive nature. I was absolutely terrible. I suppose it was so slow and I was just so skinny and I was just not athletic at all in that the previous two years. I had lost all my condition and everything.”

Not letting her injury stand in the way, Richael turned to former Paralympian Francine Meehan, learning from the best.

With Covid pushing back the games by a year and no velodrome in Ireland to train on, Richael says she’s not in Tokyo to win, she’s there to learn and really push herself by the time Paris 2024 comes around.

“I’m relatively new, just a case of gaining as much experience as I can, learning from everyone around me. All you can do really is do a personal best time.

“I’m just going I’m going to do my best. And if my best is 10th, I know I’ve given my all and if my best is a medal, that’s amazing.

“I’m just kind of looking forward to soaking up the atmosphere, being at a competition, but also taking in everything that’s going on around, not just in sports, the way my events go.”

Having never been to Japan before, soaking up all there is to the country is high on the priority list, but with an extra year of training under her belt, this year’s Paralympics might go better than she originally anticipated.

“It’s all about your endurance and it’s all about really the amount of years you have. So I have a small amount of years, especially for the road events, I was just trying to build on that as much as I can.

“It has definitely given me an extra year training and maybe an extra year stronger, but it’s also made every other girl an extra year stronger. I think it’s important to look at it like that.

“I think there are girls there now that I know I can beat, whereas last year I would have been trying to compete and maybe catch them as opposed to beat them.”

But with the extra training and a year to build her strength, not only is Paris looking more like reality but Richael’s even got her sight set on Los Angeles 2028.

“I’m not stopping and after Tokyo, I think I see cycling my career for now. I’m going to keep going at it for as long as I’m able, for as long as I’m good enough. I’m someone that if I’m getting better, I’m going to keep going.

“Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something, you really can do whatever you want. I was told I wouldn’t do sport again like that. For me to learn to walk, you just have to keep pushing on, and sport is amazing in that it brings so many people together.

“If you’re a child with a disability or with something that people are telling you you can’t do something, prove them wrong, that you can do that. And you might not be able to do it the way other people do it. But you can still do it.”