If we learned anything from the triumph of the Paralympic games, it’s that there is no archetype to success. To get to grips with the different journeys to athletic stardom, we spoke to two of our ambassadors in sports: the Irish middle distance Paralympic runner Michael McKillop, and Reece Prescod, the London born sprinter. We found out where they began, how they got there, what their plans are for the future, and much more!
What inspired you to take part in athletics?
For Michael McKillop his very first contact with sport happened at a young age, as both his parents were competitive athletes. It therefore seemed natural to follow in the footsteps of his father who also ran for Ireland. Prescod’s source of inspiration was a little different, “I remember watching Usain bolt in the 2008 Olympics win the 100m that inspired me to sprint”.
What was your first ever major win and first ever loss?
Like all great athletes, Prescod and McKillop are their own worst critics. Prescod won his first serious medal in 2012, taking silver in the 200m England Championships. Whilst this was his first ever major win, he also says it was his first ever loss! McKillop similarly notes that his first major win and loss was the IPC European championships where he took silver.
What does your training schedule involve?
Because there’s no ‘one size fits all’ training manual for success, we asked McKillop and Prescod how they stay at the top of their game. Both athletes train 5-6 days a week for around 5 hours a day. McKillop says his daily routine includes “around 60 miles of running two sessions per week and two gym sessions.” When it comes to food, Prescod makes sure he eats three square meals a day, whilst McKillop’s says “I try to eat lots of turkey stir-fry and I look forward to my cheat day each week, (battered sausages & chips)”.
How do you prepare for a big competition?
When a big competition is on the horizon and pressure is mounting, being mentally ready is just as important as physical fitness. To get his head in the game, Prescod prepares “by staying relaxed and keeping chilled”. McKillop similarly prioritises rest and says, “before a major championship I would spend most the day in bed watching movies and listening to music, then I would have my chicken Caesar salad wrap and a chocolate bar”.
What are your personal best finishing times?
McKillop holds the world record for the fastest 800m and 1500m in the T37 classification (a sports classification for athletes with disabilities in track and jump events). He says that “the T37 1500m back in London 2012, where I won gold and was presented my medal by my mum” was one of his proudest moments.
For Prescod his personal best finishing times include 10.03 seconds in the 100m and 20.38 in the 200m, but his biggest achievement was “making the World 100m Championship Final in London 2017” and “winning the 100m at British Championships”.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
To achieve such awe-inspiring results, all athletes need a role model or two! For Prescod, those role models come in the form of the record-breaking tennis champion Roger Federer and the 18-time All Star basketball player Kobe Bryant. McKillop’s role models lie much closer to home, as he says that his parents are his biggest sources of inspiration.
What obstacles have you faced in professional athleticism?
As an athlete that has struggled with mental health issues in the past, McKillop is well versed in overcoming personal difficulties, “I am a very nervous person, when it comes to major championships, I always think negative rather than positive.” In contrast, Prescod says, “I enjoy the spotlight and stay chilled”. Whilst the pressures of competitive sports affect all athletes differently, in general recreational sports have extremely positive effects on mental health, physical well-being and overall happiness.
What helps you get through tough challenges?
There are several effective, simple coping mechanisms that help athletes get through their tough schedule and high-pressure competitions. Prescod’s golden rule is always make sure you get enough sleep, whilst McKillop says having family support helps him to focus and “setting small goals is the one thing that keeps me motivated to achieve”.
How much time do you have for your personal life?
Both McKillop and Prescod’s training schedules take place during normal working hours, which allows them some free time. Prescod spends his afternoons “sleeping, playing PlayStation, and reading”. On the other hand, McKillop loves to spend his free time with friends and family, “I always go to the pub on Saturdays with my fiancé’s parents to watch the football. I also try get out with my friends occasionally in Belfast.”
Where do you see yourself in the future and what would you like to accomplish?
Having achieved so much already, it’s hard to imagine what’s next on the agenda for athletic stars. Prescod says, “I see myself with medals across different championships, a homeowner and hopefully family man”. Whilst McKillop’s goals are a little more surprising: “I am a massive golf fan, so I would love to attempt to play a level par round at a chosen course.”
After having talked to both athletes, we are even more aware that there really is not just one way to success. Different training schedules, inspirations, and obstacles have brought both Prescod and McKillop to where they are now, via different routes. Now and then, they needed a little help from a friend or family member to have the motivation to keep going. At Better we believe in the benefits of sports and helping people on their journey to success. Therefore, we provide the opportunities and facilities to access sports and reap all the benefits, no matter your age, ability, or background.