Monday, November 25, 2019

Greta Streimikyte on succeeding in spite of labels

Greta Streimikyte RTE
Sport is all about categories, weights, divisions and labels but sometimes you meet someone who crosses over those boxes and simply does her own thing. You could call Greta Streimikyte an athlete, a runner, a visually-impaired woman, a graduate, a trainer, a European champion, a Paralympian or an achiever and you'd be right but for her it's all just living. 

We spent over an hour chatting in Swords recently, it was one of those interviews that takes off and the questions almost appear by themselves as she had so much to say. For me it was an education in middle-distance running and the chess-moves needed to get to the front at the right time and stay there. 

The mentality that breeds in athletes is fascinating. Greta starts by saying it's all about running as fast as you can, but then she adds in so many variations. 

She says: "We plan so we know these are the girls; we know their time for the 1,500m and we would think this girl is fast so she might kick at the end. So, let’s say if I don’t have that speed, that means I need to go fast at the start. But it’s a championships race, you can plan it as well as you think but you never know." 

And even though she's proud of flying the Irish flag at these elite events, she's also determined not to be defined as a Visually-Impaired athlete. She talks about running and playing with her brother and sister - they are triplets - as a child, about moving from Lithuania to Ireland as a teenager and now finishing her degree at DCU. There are normal, everyday things and even though to us coping without full sight seems impossible, Greta makes it seem normal. 

Off the track she works with children in schools around Dublin, spending time especially with immigrant kids and says shyly: "I tell them that everything is going to be OK." 

There's a sense from her that everything is going to be OK because she won't accept things being any other way. She also talks though about losing and how you have to accept that, in the same way maybe that she has accepted her lot in life and is working to overcome that all the time. 

Shortly after we spoke she came 5th in the finals at the World Para Athletics Championships. Again this is an achivement many would be proud of but for Greta it's not quite where she sees herself. You can watch her talk about this with Paralympics Ireland on their Youtube. 

Qualifying for Tokyo2020 is next on her agenda. If she wins the coveted Paralympic medal that's one label she might be happy to claim. 

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