A nice way to start the week – Paul Hession took some time out to have a bit of a chin-wag with our own James Sullivan…
Paul Hession is an elite sprinter from County Galway, Ireland who specialises in the 200m. He finished 12th at the 2007 World Championships, 10th at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 10th at the 2009 World Championships, narrowly missing out on the final on each occasion. At the 2010 European Championships Hession qualified for the 200m final finishing in 6th place. He holds the Irish national record for both 100m (10.18) and 200m (20.30). Hession is currently based in Scotland and is coached by Stuart Hogg.
Paul: No worries James, good to talk to you again!
James: What is your earliest memory of competing in athletics?
Paul: Probably the Community Games at Under 10 when I finished 2nd in the County Championships. The winner went to Mosney so I was a little disappointed!
James: Who was your athletics idol growing up?
Paul: I always admired Frankie Fredericks. He was such a great sprinter to watch. Really natural and technically smooth. I think I liked the fact that he often played second fiddle to Michael Johnson but always performed really well.
James: What has been your personal highlight of your career to date?
Paul: Probably the Beijing Olympics. Although I was bitterly disappointed to miss the final by one place I still am aware that I performed well when it mattered. Winning the quarterfinal is something that I will look back to with satisfaction in the future
James: You have shown remarkable consistency in finishing 12th in Osaka, 10th in Beijing and 10th in Berlin. How close do you feel you are to reaching a global 200m final?
Paul: I think I am close as anyone could possibly be! That consistency has been a huge part of why I’ve done well in the last few years. However, It’s time for me to move it on to another level now and if I can make an Olympic final in London then it will have been worth the near misses. It’s all about fine tuning and learning from the past in order to finally get through that barrier.
James: Looking back how would you assess your 2010 season and your 6th place finish at the Barcelona European Championships?
Paul: I was very disappointed with Barcelona. I went into 2010 with realistic aspirations of being the European Champion or at least winning a medal. The season started relatively well but I just got my preparations a little wrong and paid for it at the championships, where I was a little flat. I’ll have to try to learn from it and get it right in Daegu and London.
James: What are your goals for 2011?
Paul: My main target is the World Championships in Daegu. I want to run a season’s best at the championships, when it matters, and try to get myself into that final.
James: What is a typical day of training in the life of Paul Hession?
Paul: It varies considerably at different times of the year and the week. I usually train one main session per day, 10:30-1pm. Then lunch. Often then I would get some sort of treatment, either physio or massage. In the evening I do my stretching and rehab session. In amongst this I try to do some study, as I am close to finishing a BA in History, which has been a good distraction.
James: Which one of your competitors do you have particular admiration for?
Paul: I think what Tyson Gay has done in Bolt’s shadow is great and he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being the second quickest man in history.
James: What should be done to get more young Irish people into athletics rather than the traditional sports of football, rugby and GAA? How can the profile of the sport in Ireland be improved?
Paul: That is the million-dollar question. There probably should be more of an input at schools level, like the other sports do. We need to jump on the running boom bandwagon. A lot of people are running socially, but they have made no connection to Ireland’s top athletes. It’s a difficult one though.
James: Do you see yourself staying involved in the sport when your career is over?
Paul: I’d say I will be involved in some way. I will always have a big interest in the sport I reckon.
James: How important has Christophe Lemaitre’s success in 2010 been in disproving the myth that Caucasian people can’t compete with the best over 100m and 200m?
Paul: It was a great season for him and shows that anyone, of any colour, can sprint. Now that he has broken the 10-second barrier, this is no longer a barrier to others. He is so young too so we can expect even bigger things in the future.
James: You performed impressively at your debut Olympics in Beijing, narrowly missing out on a place in the final. How extra special will London be in 2012 with the games being so close to home?
Paul: The Olympics is unique no matter where it is in the world. Saying that, however, London will be even more special. It’s so close to home and I’d say there will be a lot of Irish support in the crowd. To do well in 2012 would definitely be a career highlight for all Irish athletes.
James: Your 300m national record of 32.47 seconds suggests that you could excel over 400m. Have you ever been tempted to move up in distance?
Paul: Well I was going to run the 400m at the National Indoor Championships last month but unfortunately had to withdraw due to a small back injury. It wasn’t a career change. I just fancied something different instead of the normal 60m races. I recognise that I would probably run a decent 400m. However, for me to justify the move I would have to run under 45 seconds. This would be very difficult for me. However, you can never rule anything out and maybe I will do a low key 400m some time soon.
James: How would you describe your relationship with Silver Hatch Sports and how have they helped you?
Paul: I got together with Silver Hatch Sports after last season. They seemed keen and ambitious and they have been great so far. With things so tight economically it has become extremely difficult to make a living as a full-time athlete. The London Olympics are just around the corner and so Silver Hatch will hopefully be a big help. Website design is a big part of their skills so that is something that they want to focus on.
James: Away from sprinting what are your biggest interests?
A: I am doing a BA in History which I find quite interesting and it gives me a good distraction for my down-time. Like most athletes I watch a good bit of TV and am a big fan of radio. While in Scotland I am always tuned into the Irish radio online as it’s a lot better than its British equivalent. I follow all sports religiously and my sky sports subscription is well used! I’ve also been bitten by the travel bug and I always look forward to getting away at the end of the season for a couple of weeks. Last year I got to South America for the first time and had a ball.
James: What advice would you give to a young up and coming sprinter?
Paul: The most important thing when you are younger is to realise that everyone is developing at different rates. I think this is especially the case with sprinters. There are so many people that I lost to when I was younger that are now not in the sport, so it’s very important to stick at it and keeping training hard. Perseverance usually pays off eventually in this sport; you just have to stay positive. Another important piece of advise that all of us should follow is to enjoy what you are doing. When it is fun you are more likely to get better results and have a bit of craic along the way!
James: Thank you Paul, and the very best of luck over the coming year.
Paul: My pleasure!
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