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27th Aug 2020

Greta Streimikyte: “I’m visually impaired but I never let that get in the way of my sport”

“I have never seen it as a struggle.”

Greta Streimikyte was always an active child. She loved running and adored PE, but the 24-year-old never thought that athletics would become her career.

“In the beginning I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll give this a go and I’ll train a bit and maybe I’ll enjoy it,'” she tells Her.

“But if you had asked me when I was 10 years old, I never in a million years would have said that I would be a professional athlete.”

Lithuania born, Greta was declared blind as a baby. A triplet, she was placed in an incubator following her birth, the complications of which led to her loss of sight.

Experimental surgery in Sweden later allowed Greta to regain some of the sight in her left eye, treatment she has always been grateful for, as her parents were told to “get on with it.”

Greta was still visually impaired when she moved to Ireland at 15, but she wasn’t about to let that get in the way of her new passion: athletics.

“I’m visually impaired but I never let that get in the way of my sport,” she says. “I am a Paralympian and I compete alongside people who are in the same boat as I am, but when I train in a group, it’s not like that.

“I train the same way as anyone would train. You learn to adapt to the situation, and I have never seen it as a struggle so other people don’t see it like that either. It’s about how you approach things, and I have never approached it as an issue.”

Greta made her Irish Para-Athletics team debut in 2016 when she competed at the European Championships in Grosseto, returning to Ireland with an impressive bronze medal.

Growing up, Greta says that people were always “a bit careful” with her. “My parents had a terrible time with me as a little girl,” she says. “If something was dangerous I would do it anyway. I was fearless.”

This caution from others continued into the beginning of her athletics career. She recalls training for her first cross country run and her coach asking if she would be able to do it.

“He said it in such a nice way, and I was like ‘Yes of course, I’ll be fine! It’s not a problem!’” says Greta.

“It could have been an issue because cross country is more complicated. You could take a wrong turn or whatever, but I never did.

“I’ve never approached running as something I can’t do. When people see that they don’t get in the way. If they did start to question my ability I would get annoyed, but they see what I can do.”

What she can do is win medals. But for her, running isn’t about that. Rather, Greta says that she does it “to know that I achieved everything I could.”

“When I’m retired, I want to know that I did my best,” she says. “If that comes with me winning medals or getting PBs (Personal Bests) or whatever, that’s fine, but it’s all about that feeling.

“When the day comes that I say goodbye to athletics, I want to say to myself: ‘Yes Greta, you had a good ride of it.’”

Irish Paralympic athlete, Greta Streimikyte supporting Circle K’s ‘Here for Ireland’ initiative. Customers can scan the Circle K app or Play or Park loyalty tag in-store to generate digital coins, which Irish Paralympic and Olympic athletes can use to fuel their journey to Tokyo.

20×20 is an ambitious two-year long initiative to better promote and champion women in sport.

With the tagline of “if she can’t see it, she can’t be it,” the 20×20 movement is calling on everyone to #showyourstripes this March by making one of the following pledges:

• Pledge to PARTICIPATE or play more
• Pledge to ATTEND more women’s sporting events
• Pledge to PROMOTE, discuss, share, like and follow more female athlete

Her and SportsJOE are proud to back the 20×20 movement as official digital media partners.