28th November 2019
FUTURES IN FOCUS - KIRSTY TAYLOR
T44 sprinter and long jumper Kirsty Taylor (coach: Joe McDonnell; club: DSW Para Academy) hopes that she can build on her 2019 successes to inspire her to achieve even more in 2020.
This year, Taylor made her British debut over the summer at the World Para Athletics Junior Championships in Nottwil, Switzerland, coming away with a silver medal in the T42-64 100m and T42-64 200m, setting a personal best in the latter.
The Welshwoman was also given the honour of being named captain of the British team, something that made the trip even more special for her.
She said: “It was brilliant, it was my first championships and I didn’t quite know what to expect going in but I don’t think it could have gone any better.
“I came away with medals and a PB and the whole team environment was great really. It was quite a small team but we all got on really well and the coaches and staff were all brilliant and I was really proud of my performance.
“It was a real honour to be named captain and I was really proud of how everyone did. I didn’t see it as added pressure but I just went out there and made sure that I did my best because that’s all you can do really.”
Following her success on the world stage, Taylor was also afforded the chance to compete at the Müller Anniversary Games in the women’s T44-64 long jump, taking on 2017 world champion Stef Reid (Aston Moore; Charnwood) and European Champion Angelina Lanza (FRA).
Being able to test herself against some of the best athletes on the world stage adds fuel to the fire for the rest of her career and hopes she can emulate their success both on the track and in the field.
“That experience was crazy,” she said. “As a para-athlete, you don’t get that opportunity that much and there’s only ever a few events put on for para-athletes in the Diamond League. You don’t know if it will be your class, your event or even if you’ll have the chance to compete, but getting the invite was really special because it’s a rare opportunity.
“I’d never been to the London Stadium or a Diamond League meeting before. You see it on TV but when you’re there it’s so much more intense in real life. The crowds, the lights, the cameras and walking into the stadium and hearing the atmosphere was quite overwhelming at first.
“I took a second and was like ‘wow’ but then I snapped back in because I was there to compete, it’s still like any other competition and the athletes on show are amazing but this is still your long jump competition and you have to give it your best shot.
“I’ve competed against Stef before and she’s a huge inspiration and is one of the best in her class and is the standard that I want to get to but it is massive knowing they’ve invited me to be alongside them for an amazing opportunity.”
The teenager is a part of the British Athletics Paralympic Futures Academy Programme, which has identified her as an athlete that has the potential to represent Great Britain and Northern Ireland at future Paralympic Games and future WPA world and European Championships.
Being on the programme, Taylor has had the opportunity to travel to Grosseto for the WPA Grand Prix, access a variety of workshops to help improve her performance, but she admits that learning alongside other athletes on the programme has been one of her most beneficial factors this season.
She added: “It’s really important to have the small milestones and they help build and prepare you for championships and I definitely think without the support of the programme, this year wouldn’t have gone as well for me as it has.
“All the work they put into you with the workshops and going abroad for competitions better prepares you for the future and you have to take what you learn and try and apply it all to help you through your career.
“The biggest benefit for me has been the other athletes on the programme. I like the way that it works because there’s a range of first, second and third years and everything you do, whether it be anti-doping or nutrition, the other guys have been there.
“To have athletes in the room that can bring their real-life experience to it is great. The workshops are great and have really benefited my knowledge, but the personal experience makes a big difference.”
Taylor, who was born with talipes, first came into athletics following the Discover Your Gold initiative from UK Sport and after being identified as someone with a talent from sprinting, has not looked back.
At such an early stage of her career, she has already worked with world, European and Commonwealth medallist Christian Malcolm and currently works with Joe McDonnell, who has coached Paralympic champions Sophie Hahn and Libby Clegg, along with world U18 and European U20 200m record holder Amy Hunt.
To be a part of such a strong group and have already worked with some of the best names in the sport is something that she hopes will continue to benefit her moving forwards into 2020 as she aims to build towards the WPA European Championships.
“I remember being told they [UK Sport] were trying to pick people to go to the next championships and Paralympics and I remember thinking ‘that would be good, I probably won’t get there but it’ll be a bit of fun’.
“All of a sudden they’re telling you you’ll be representing Great Britain. There were athletes who’d competed for Great Britain there telling me I’ll be one of them soon and now I am, it’s mad!
“I went to Christian when I’d only been training for a few months and stepped into a training environment where some of the boys were training for the Commonwealth Games and some had been to a Paralympic Games, to see their work ethic and what it takes to get there was invaluable.
“Coming to Loughborough now with Joe, I already knew him from the Futures Academy and when he knew I was coming, he said he wanted to coach me. He’s had so many amazing athletes that he’s brought through and that are there now. To have so much knowledge and experience to help us develop has been brilliant.”