Above: Rory McSweeney winning bronze at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Photo by Getty Images.
Paralympic javelin bronze medallist Rory McSweeney is among the world’s finest amputee throwers. Here the 32-year-old Christchurch-based javelinist answers our Five Minutes With questions.
Why and how did you start in the sport of athletics?
Paralympics NZ ran a talent identification programme back in 2009 and I signed up for cycling. I really had no clue what my best event would be, cycling just sprung to mind. Javelin also happened to be one of the test events that day and after I was given a chance to throw, I hit a couple through the point. I knew then that it would my event and I’ve been throwing the javelin ever since.
What was your first significant win?
It wasn’t a win as such, but throwing 55.80m to pick up silver at the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha was a hugely significant moment for me. That day I broke the Oceania and New Zealand record held by John Dowall who won gold at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, which had been a big goal of mine.
What was your first major setback?
The 2015 Porritt Classic was bittersweet. I cracked 50m for the first time, but a couple of throws later I picked up a grade one ligament tear in my throwing elbow. I couldn’t throw for nearly seven months as a result of the injury, although despite experiencing only eight weeks of throwing before the 2015 Worlds, I was on fire by the time I got to Doha. It's funny how things work out.
Best piece of coaching advice?
“Be the cicada.” To me this means a lot of things. It means to be present. To be self-aware. To be the observer. It means talk to the wind and ask it to take the javelin where it's never been, while being the cicada in the tree watching.
What qualities do think every athlete needs to succeed?
I think the most important thing is to have a vision or a goal and then just go after it. You'll find out about your character and qualities along the way. This has been true of my career. Initially I just wanted to be a Paralympian. Then I became javelin thrower. Then I wanted to break John Dowall’s record, which I did. Since 2011 I also have set the goal to be the first amputee to throw over 60m, which is a target that has happened many times in my mind.
What is most important thing you have learned from your time in the sport?
Sometimes things don't pan out the way we think they should, so be adaptable, listen to your body and your intuition. Be positive. Good things take time.
What is the best thing about being an athlete?
I enjoy the personal development aspect. Being the master of your own craft. It's a never-ending journey.
If you could have a superpower what would it be and why?
Time travel. To go back and witness key events in history or explore different eras would be pretty cool.
What is your hidden talent?
Currently it's shuffle board. We have one at our house in Athens, Georgia. I've been schooling Tom Walsh and Angus Ross. Grown men do cry.
What would be your last meal?
It would have to be a green curry with a kick.
What is your karaoke song?
Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody, karaoke. Tina Turner - Simply the Best, in the shower.
What is your greatest indulgence?
Coffee!! A quad shot every morning just to feel human.
If you could have three dinner party guests, who would they be and why?
Esther Hicks - because she is the master of the 'Law of Attraction'.
Rodriguez - watch 'Searching for Sugar Man', that's why.
Jim Carrey - for the LOLs and he's a bit of a guru too.