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'I showed him my medal and as I was walking away, he said, 'I want to be like Nicole one day''

Nicole Turner won a silver medal at the Tokyo Paralympics.

Updated Oct 13th 2021, 8:00 PM

IT TOOK NICOLE Turner almost a week to respond to the hundreds of messages and good wishes she received in the wake of her silver medal success at the Paralympics.

nicole-turner Paralympic silver medalist Nicole Turner. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The Laois swimmer had the Games of her life in Tokyo. After falling short of a bronze medal at Rio five years ago, Turner exceeded that honour in Japan by clocking a personal best time of 36.30 seconds in the final of the S6 50m butterfly.

That superb display was enough to earn her a silver medal.

She was glad of the quiet after flying back into Ireland at 10pm before being swept up in the celebrations the next day. The fanfare lasted for weeks, starting with a homecoming parade that was organised by two local businessmen, and included an open top bus.

And since Portarlington is situated on the border of Laois and Offaly, both counties are planning civic receptions to honour her achievement.

That aside, the party has fizzled out now and Turner has settled back into normal life by getting back in the pool and starting a PLC [Post Leaving Cert] course in Sport and Leisure Management.

But there was one encounter from her celebrations which will stay with her.

“The standout one for me was when the community gave me a homecoming. I was in the Portarlington rugby club and there was little boy there called Eddie. And Eddie was in a wheelchair, he couldn’t use his legs and couldn’t walk.

“My Mam brought me over to him and I showed him my medal. And as I was walking away, he turned to his Mam and said, ‘I want to be like Nicole one day.’ Just little things like that, me achieving success and other people seeing what they want to have as success in their life. It’s really nice.”

The World Championships next June are the next major event on Turner’s schedule, having resumed her training just last week. Until then, there is some waiting time to sit through which can bring some challenges for athletes.

The comedown from an event as prestigious as the Olympics is otherwise known as the ‘post Games blues,’ according to Turner.

She recalls the symptoms hitting her in the aftermath of competing at Rio, and anticipates that the condition will set in again at some point since returning home from Tokyo.

nicole-turner-celebrates-winning-a-silver-medal Nicole Turner with her silver medal. Source: Delly Carr/INPHO

“It won’t hit for a while,” the 19-year-old explains.

“Looking back on Rio, there was that [comedown]. It was so crazy. Even going down town, there are so many people who recognise you and come up to you, asking, ‘Where’s your medal?’ And it’s so lovely to see.

“The past three or four weeks have been crazy for me but I think it will be missed. As people say, it’s called the post Games blues, and thankfully I have college and I’m back swimming so if I get it, it won’t be anything serious.

“But you miss the feeling of success and I’ll look back on photos from my parade and having time with friends and family, and I will miss that success, because it won’t come around for another three years but you do miss it.

“I suppose there is such a build-up towards it. It only happens every four years so like, I only take one step at a time. World Championships are in June and [there will be] a new set of Worlds in 2023 before Paris 2024. To be honest, I am training for Paris but I don’t think of Paris at the minute, I’m just thinking of Worlds.

“The Paralympics gets so much attention and focus going in, and then all of a sudden it just stops. It does take time to adjust back to normal before all the preparation should start for the Paralympics.”

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In advance of the Tokyo Paralympics, Turner had taken the decision to take a break from school and put her Leaving Cert on ice. That was before the Covid-enforced delay of the 2020 Games, meaning she ended up taking two years out instead of one.

Now that the Tokyo box has been ticked, she has returned to her studies. However, she won’t be going back to school as it’s not possible for her to combine that intensive class time with her swimming regime.

The PLC is a better fit for now and will ensure she stays connected to sport, although there are no firm calls made yet about what direction her future will take.

“It’s a PLC so it’s the equivalent of a Leaving Cert. I needed to go back to education in some way but I think going back to school was just physically impossible. I couldn’t do school for the past three years with swimming and I’m not prepared to put swimming on hold, just with the age I’m at.

“If I’m honest, swimming doesn’t last forever. The younger you are, the easier it is to swim. I always have time to go back and do something if I really want to. But the PLC is the equivalent of a Leaving Cert anyway so I’ll get a bit of ground work done now and see what I want to do afterwards.

“It’s in Sport and Leisure Management so I think I’m not going too far away. I’m staying in sport, so what I want to do from that, I’m not sure.”

Paralympic silver medallist, Nicole Turner, was speaking at the final call for nominations for the 2021 Federation of Irish Sport Volunteers in Sport Awards, proudly supported by EBS.

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