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Paralegend: Hayley Fitzsimons

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Hayley Fitzsimons may have shorter legs than you or I, but she’s well able to kick the world up the arse with them.

Those legs have taken Hayley to America, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Dubai, Qatar and the UK. In her first year major competition in the Czech Republic in  2012, she took home gold in the javelin and the title of a junior world champion. In 2013 she travelled to America where she competed at the World Dwarf Games against people of her own stature and also won gold in javelin, with a new Dwarf World Record and a bronze in discus. In 2014 she travelled to Stoke Mandeville where she picked up two bronze medals for discus and the javelin.

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2015 was her best year to date, as she travelled to the Netherlands for the Junior World Championships and won both a gold in javelin and in shotputt. Next, she was chosen by Paralympics Ireland to represent Ireland and travelled to Doha, Qatar for the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) Athletics World Championships where she hit a new Irish Record in the shotputt of 5.20.

Hayley is now ranked sixth in the world and has recently returned from the IWAS U23 World Championships in the Czech Republic where she won all three of her events and claimed the three titles of U23 World Champion. She now holds three Irish Records, but still managed to find the time to have a chat with us.

Hayley, you have achieved so much at such a young age. Did you always have a competitive streak or feel you had something to prove?

I always played sport but never at such a high level until I started doing athletics. With athletics, you’re always trying to better yourself and not anyone else as such, unless you’re trying to gain a spot on a team, when obviously,  you need to prove that you’re better than the other person they could choose. I always like to better myself every time I compete but sometimes it’s not always possible. Sometimes, I compete against friends that I’ve made over the years. When competition hits these friends become my rivals out on the field but as soon as competition is over we forget about being rivals and are friends again.

What’s the biggest challenge you ever faced and how did it shape you as a person?

As a person with dwarfism, life sometimes throws up certain challenges, but nothing that I haven’t been able to overcome up to now in some way or another. I suppose if I was to say what one of my biggest challenges was going from  a secondary school with 700 pupils, most of which I knew and who knew me, to a college with over ten thousand students. They had probably never met anyone like me and I didn’t know how they would react. Going into an unknown environment on a much bigger scale made me worry about what obstacles I would face. I need not have worried as I have made some life-long friends and in their own way they look out for me. I also found the college very accommodating and able to meet any specific requirement in which I may have had.

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What would you say to girls who feel that they don’t have the same opportunities as everyone else?

Everyone is different and everyone has different needs whether your male or female, tall or small or black or white. Opportunities come by all different ways and means, sometimes you have to make your own opportunities and stand out from the crowd. Don’t be afraid to be yourself or to be different to the person who’s standing right next to you.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Be yourself, enjoy what you do. If people can’t accept you for who you are, it’s them that have the problem and not you. Also, never give up on your dreams. There’s no such thing as ‘I can’t’, anything is possible.

Who are your role models?

My role models are my family and always will be my family because they are always behind me 100% and always looking out for me.  I know that with any advice they give it’s always for my best.

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Who’s your hero and why?

One of my main sporting hero’s would have to be Aled Davies. Davies is a Paralympian athlete who is from Wales and competed in the F42 Discus and Shot. F42 category is for single leg above the knee amputees or athletes with other comparable impairments of muscle power in the lower limbs. I would consider Aled Davies my hero because he competes in the same events but also because when he wasn’t selected for the 2008 Paralympics, he didn’t give up but trained harder and the results paid off for him. He made the Paralympic Team in London 2012 and won a Gold in Discus and a Bronze in Shot. He never gave up and continues to achieve his dreams as he prepares to Represent Great Britain at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.

What’s next for you?

I’m still training for my last competition of the season which is on the 10th of September in Cork. After my final competition I will take a six-week recovery break and get back to training towards my goals of next year and the near future; the World Dwarf Games in Canada, the U23 World Championships and the IPC World Championships in London next year. After making the qualification for Rio this year I aim to qualify again for Tokyo 2020. I aim to be there, not spectating but competing and hoping for a podium finish.

Tell us your top 5 songs to workout or train to?

One of my favourite songs has to come from my favourite movie which is Dirty Dancing and the song ‘Time of my life’ which I always try to live up to and have the time of my life. Other songs which I like to train to are Rihanna – Work, Drake – One Dance, Tracy Chapman – Fast Car, Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud.

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