Life

Anne Hailes: Runner Cathy McCourt keeping medal success in the family

Runner Cathy McCourt is off to the World Masters Athletics Championships in Australia thanks to support from Jonathan Millar at Bryan Somers Travel in Ballynahinch. Picture by Declan Roughan

MY Wig and Me was a most moving programme broadcast last week on BBC NI.

It told the story of a number of women and one little girl – bright and beautiful Emily – who had lost their hair because of alopecia or cancer.

Thanks to Theresa Hughes of Tresses Hairpiece Boutique they all found a wig to suit them and got their self confidence and style back.

This letter came to me after the programme.

"A pity only one of of those women could avail from Tresses expertise under the NHS.

"Tresses has won the contract to supply wigs for Western Trust only, an English wig company has won the contracts for the other four trusts. All Northern Ireland patients deserve the best service possible like those in the Western Trust.

"Could make an interesting story if you could get an MLA to investigate?"

Theresa is a special lady, as I discovered when she provided me with a wig after chemotherapy 16 years ago.

"You'll lose your hair in 19 days and it will be grand because I'm here to make you look lovely."

She added: "You're a Janet," and produced the perfect wig – just the attitude you appreciate at a traumatic time.

She was much loved as the 'Wiggy Woman' at Belvoir Park Hospital and hundreds of woman, and men, are grateful to her.

 

If you would like to donate hair for children's wigs (must be 12 inches or over) get in touch with Littleprincesses.org.uk for more details.

True North: My Wig and Me is available on the BBC iPlayer now.

 

A Runaway Success

It's an important time for Cathy McCourt, who has just flown out to Australia to take part in the World Masters Athletics Championships and has a family tradition to uphold.

The name Jim McCourt is well known in sporting circles; in the 1960s, at the peak of his boxing career, Jim won an Olympic bronze, Commonwealth gold and European medals – and now his daughter is set to make more headlines.

It runs in the family.

Cathy, a NASM Certified Level 4 Advanced Personal Trainer, is currently the 5000m World Masters bronze medallist and European Games bronze medallist and tackles her next challenge in Perth in a few days time.

But the path to success hasn't been easy.

"My father encouraged me to compete at a competitive level from a young age and I was successful as a junior athlete and competed for Ireland Internationally," she told me.

However, a family tragedy meant her running career was cut short at the age of 17, as she explained.

"My brother, who was 10 months older than me, was knocked down and killed by a train just a short distance from the family home. It took a long time for the family to recover and I gradually drifted away from the sport and found it very difficult to cope in those following years."

In her early 30s, Cathy met a coach who suggested she should come back to athletics and give it another go.

"By this stage I was very unfit, over weight and suffered from severe lack of confidence and very low self-esteem. I never believed I could get back as I thought I was too old, but I went along anyway.

"Since then I haven't looked back."

Until last September, when she broke her foot at the European Games in Nice.

"The medics were very doubtful I'd get back to competitive running and told me I probably wouldn't run again, which once again threatened my career.

"I went to my therapist in Carlow for his opinion and he suggested I didn't get any metal put into my foot.

"He worked with me for almost eight months and thankfully I'm back to full training and competition again and looking forward now to competing for Ireland at the World Championships."

It takes a lot of support to reach this level of competition: training, discipline with diet, expensive travel – but thanks to support from Jonathan Millar of Ballynahinch based Bryan Somers Travel Cathy has her return flight tickets in her bag and is feeling confident.

Will she be carrying one of her dad's medals for good luck?

"Too heavy, hopefully I'll bring some back for him!

"I've a lot to live up to, he won his gold in the Commonwealth games in Jamaica in 1966 and brought the only Olympic medal back to Ireland from Tokyo in 1964.

"He has always been and will always be my sporting hero."

Preserve Us From This Man

Donald Chump Trump: what a specimen, I guess insecure, a man who has to boost his lack of masculinity by taking about his prowess. Sad but worrying. It's almost funny the number of men who appear to excuse him, calling it "locker room banter", implying that all men in men's company talk this way, putting down women as objects to be used and abused.

I came across it in my workplace 20 years ago and being that much older than some of the other girls, they came to me with their embarrassing tales and I in turn tackled the laddos concerned.

Most accepted that their behaviour was short of gentlemanly but they hadn't realised it was upsetting.

However, when I was a teenager, I remember walking through Cornmarket sporting my newly dyed red hair when a workman on some scaffolding round Mooney's bar on the corner shouted down – "Hey ginger, do you snap?"

Everyone around laughed, me included!

I also remember a senior manager following me upstairs and smacking me on the bottom, saying: "Nancy girl (he called me Nancy for some reason), you have a fine pair of child bearing hips."

Do you know – I felt complimented!

Today in both cases it would be totally unacceptable and these men could be reported for lewd behaviour. But remember, for every one boorish, rough, bad-mannered Chump, there are lots and lots of true caring gentlemen.

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