It is amazing what just over five years brings you. Where will you be in 5 years time is a question you get at every job interview and quite honestly I don’t have a clue. If I have learned anything from rereading the last “Kerrie’s Story” it is that the path you lay before you is not always the path you leave behind.
Five years ago I thought I would be a film studies graduate. I was internally freaking out because all of my peers would be so far ahead of me given that I had repeated the leaving certificate and I was going to be playing catch up in the game of life; Irish edition. I didn’t in a million years think I would do a 180-degree turn within 12 months but it would appear that I enjoy taking the scenic route.
Lets pick up where I left off shall we. In 2010, I enrolled in DIT to do Film and Broadcasting with French (for good measure). I finished first year and had quickly decided that I loved the practical side but I did not want a career in that field. Becoming a statistic, a college dropout, and ultimately very lost all before my 21st birthday. During Christmas 2011 my aunt stepped in and we went job hunting. I applied for a role with the London Olympics and Paralympics hoping for the best and expecting the worst. I suffered the most depression I have had in a very long time, the scary kinda depression, with teeth that just took hold and wasn’t even sneaky about it. To try and counteract it I became involved in archery, a sport that I had done as a teen but stopped after going to boarding school and having back surgery, and I applied to go back to college for the following year.
Soon after Christmas I was called for two job interviews for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and I got the job, thank goodness for London 2012 inclusion policy! Then on the archery side I was invited to my first para archery competition in Stoke Mandeville. Off I went to the UK for both. Summer 2012 was a whirlwind and the best experience I have ever had. How am I going to top getting to see Katie Taylor’s gold medal match surrounded by a sea of green in the stands of the Excel Stadium or finally completing The Iliad, the book version of my Waterloo! I also got to watch Oscar Pistorius compete at the Olympics, but I say that with more hushed tones now. To top off the summer that was I was accepted to Maynooth University and started a degree in Equine Business that September.
I returned home to start in Maynooth and the long and short of it was that I graduated last September. I could bore you to death with the educational details but everyone knows that there is more to education that just books. Again I joined the archery club and currently hold the student record in my discipline. That happens to include able-bodied archers too as there isn’t a separate para category. One of the more fulfilling parts of college was the #NoLabelsNoLimits campaign started in 2015 that took legs (pardon the pun) in 2016 becoming a national event. The idea was that we should celebrate the students of Maynooth University and the differences that make the campus unique. Although we ran events such as wheelchair basketball and blind football for those with a physical disability, like myself, there are many hidden disabilities and these too should be acknowledged. Students with dyspraxia, dyslexia, epilepsy, autism, Asperger’s, to name a few, all have a place on our campus and that “labels are for jars not people”. The campaign won the USI Student Achievement Award in 2015 and was a national campaign in 2016. It is one of the real legacies I hope sustains in Ireland’s Universities and that becomes a national event across the entire education system of Ireland.
Back to archery, I graduated in 2015 and have spent the last year focusing solely on archery and qualifying for the Rio Paralympics. Last summer, I headed to the 2015 World Archery Para Championships in Germany and I finished 9th. I then went to the 2016 European Para Archery Championships in France and was 3rd in the qualifying tournament, finally I finished 7th in the last qualifying tournament in the Czech Republic. All just outside securing my ticket to Rio. Lets not dwell on that though, the journey was captured on my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/kerrieleonardrio2016, if you want more details of the ups and downs. It has not deterred me and I’ll start it all again as Tokyo is only 4 years away.
As well as archery I can now call myself a horse breeder. One of my side projects in college was the purchase of a thoroughbred mare. I started into the breeding process when Dorothy arrived on the farm on a cold January 2014 morning. She looked like a coat rack and a baby at four years old. In Spring 2014 she went in foal and in Spring 2015 she went into labor, into distress, lost her foal and I almost lost her for good measure. Panic, planning and TLC made her pull around and I got her back in foal that year (God knows how!). In April 2016 she had her first live foal and Ozzy joined the Leonard household. An awkward long legged creature that I had absolutely no idea what to do with, my only objective was to make sure he stayed alive. After all that energy and effort he wont be with us after Christmas and I’ll, hopefully, be starting the rollercoaster again next spring.
I like to take on a project every year it seems and in the last year, along with friends, I set up a brand new archery club in Trim, County Meath, Fusion Archers. We are an inclusive club that came from very small beginnings. We are the epitomy of Archery Ireland’s inclusion policy. I am the coach of the club’s beginner courses and you can find the club at www.fusionarchers.com or https://www.facebook.com/FusionArchers. We have a very relaxed atmosphere and love gaining new members along the way. Most of the senior members have international experience and know that you have to start somewhere. If you are interested in taking up the sport or want to find a club in your area just get in touch.
Well that is a round up of the last five years, I’m sure I’ll check in in the next five years. At that stage I will have taken yet another complicated path with five more big projects.
Until 2021, Kerrie 🙂