Meet the Déise girl who’s an Australian with eyes on gold in Tokyo
She may represent Australia but she’ll always be a Deise girl to us … a young athlete, who medaled at the World Para-athletic Championships, has very strong ties to county Waterford.
Sarah Walsh, a 21-year-old long jumper and sprinter from Sydney, Australia, won a Bronze medal in the T64 long-jump at the championships held in Dubai, this past week.
Sarah’s father Thomas (Tom), is originally from Coolnamuck, just outside Carrickbeg, where her grandmother Teresa Walsh lives. Sarah’s grandfather Joe, a very popular man in the area, passed away a number of years ago.
WaterfordNow.ie caught up with Sarah’s father Tom, who travelled from Sydney to Dubai to see her compete, then made a quick trip back to Carrickbeg after her medal win.
“She is delighted. She has been slowly progressing and getting onto the podium – this is the next level.
Sarah Walsh jumps her way to Bronze in the Women's Long Jump T64! 🦘
— 7Sport (@7Sport) November 11, 2019
“Sarah is a now full-time athlete, training five-and-a-half days a week in the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. She is studying sports management there also.
“She made that move after the 2016 Olympics in Rio. She changed coaches and moved to Canberra.”
Sarah, who was born with fibular hemimelia, was 18 months old when her parents gave doctors the go-ahead to amputate her foot, a decision Sarah says was the best decision her parents ever made for her. Due to the difficult nature of the decision on their part, she calls them heroes for it.
Thomas, who moved to Australia in 1989, said Sarah was always active and took up athletics at a young age, encouraged by of all people – an Irish nun teaching in Australia.
“Sarah was eight when she started athletics. Her school had quite a rivalry with other local schools, so there was a competitive atmosphere from the outset there.
“An Irish nun in her school really encouraged Sarah to get involved, so we started going to a lot of the Athletic carnivals – Little Athletics. It was there Sarah really showed potential.
“She got her first running blade when she was 12, and it all started from there.”
It was 2013 when Sarah got the Paralympic bug, after it was announced the games were to be held in Rio de Janerio. From then, she started focusing on athletics and training.
“I’m going there, she said to us. And she did.
“She finished sixth in Rio and set some records in the process. In London’s 2017 Para-athletics championship, she came fourth.
“Sarah went to Dubai with aspirations to medal, but you never know. You are meeting a lot of these girls for the first time in a long time, so you don’t know where they are at.
“She’s happy, happy with the consistency of her jumping, that’s what’s pleased her most.
“Next it’s the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. That’s the big focus now,” Tom said.