Para-swimmer Tully Kearney hoping inventive training will give her edge ahead of delayed Tokyo 2020

Tully Kearney’s 2020 has been a bit more sedate compared to a 2019 which saw her win three gold medals at the Para-Swimming World Championships and finish number one in the world rankings for the S5 category.

When pools were shutting back in March, Kearney had to become inventive to be able to keep training.

She was quick on the draw to buy an above ground pool at a time when exercise equipment of all kinds sold out and was hiked up in price.

Like everyone, she had to master the art of Zoom to be able to continue coaching sessions:

“I was swimming against a bungee and after a while I managed to get my coaches watching me on Zoom calls and then was using my GoPro underwater to get footage of me swimming.”

Out of the pool, Kearney continued her other sporting passion of race-running.

A modified bike which she describes as: “A three-wheeled frame, a bit like a trike, so you are sat on bike seat but you lean forward on a chest plate and you steer with handlebars and there are no pedals so you run.”

Kearney was classed as being in the high-risk group; she has cerebral palsy and dystonia, meaning she had to spend the first three months of lockdown isolating.

Her family helped her to secure her race-runner to a treadmill, strapping it down and balancing it on books.

The 23-year-old swimmer used race-running to distract herself: “It was a really great way to clear my head and get over the fact that I couldn’t leave the house.

“We put it in the garage so I could open the garage door and look outside; it was a really great way of maintaining my fitness over lockdown.”

Manchester Met student Kearney was forced to withdraw from Rio 2016 just two weeks before the Games were set to begin as her condition deteriorated, at its worst she was unable to lift her arms to shoulder height.

That’s why Kearney says she wasn’t just training to maintain her competitive fitness; she was doing it to keep function in her arms.

“On land I can’t raise my arms much above shoulder height but I can get a bit more movement in the water, which is why I can still swim.”

She continues: “So it is really important to me that I don’t lose that movement that I had in the water that I can’t get on dry land.”

Aldridge-born Kearney remains positive about missing Rio 2016, believing that the disappointment of being the only GB athlete to have to withdraw helped prepare for the postponement of the 2020 Games.

When not training, Kearney also found time to give back to her community and to the NHS.

Inspired by her mum, brother and aunt who all work for the health service, Kearney got involved with For The Love Of Scrubs, an online community making masks, scrubs and scrub bags for healthcare workers.

“It was really great to be able to give back to the NHS but it was also great for all of us that were doing it because it gave us a purpose and we also learnt so many skills from each other.

“It restored that faith in humanity that there are all these thousands of people out there giving up their whole days so that hospital workers could have clean scrubs.”

Kearney has not yet qualified for the Tokyo Olympics but performed well at the British Para-Swimming International Meet in early April to give herself a great chance of making the team.

Lack of competitive swimming in 2020 didn’t stop her from being nominated for the Sunday Times Disability Sportswoman of the Year.

As Kearney waits to assure her place at Tokyo, she has plenty of things to keep her busy.

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