Nicola Tuthill became the first Irish athlete ever to win a medal at the European Throwing Cup, when she took silver in the women’s U23 hammer competition in Leiria, Portugal at the weekend.
It was a courageous performance from the 19-year-old, returning to the same competition and venue where she was stretchered away from 12 months earlier with an injury in the hammer cage.
“I am delighted with it,” she said afterwards. “I had a tricky run in here last year, I got my leg caught and fell and dislocated and fractured my elbow. So definitely a better result this year. So, to get out this year and throw a good distance, I can’t really complain. It’s nice to bring something home for Ireland.”
Asked whether she was still carrying psychological scars from last year, she dismissed the notion. “It could have happened anywhere last year, so I wasn’t too nervous of it.”
Her brilliant second round throw of 64.44m in Sunday's competition (12) was underscored with a 64.02m in the fifth round and, were it not for a final round effort of 65.51m by Ukraine’s former European U18 and U20 Champion Valeriya Ivanenko-Kyrylina, Tuthill could have been celebrating gold.
However, it still puts the Irish athlete firmly in the frame as a contender at the European Athletics U23 Championships in Espoo, Finland from 13-16 July. “It’s my first year as an U23, so that will be a nice one to get out to in Finland and see what I can do. Hopefully get another few PBs and build on the distance a bit,” she said.
Growing up on a dairy farm in Cork, she first discovered her taste for the throws by attending an athletics camp hosted by local club Bandon AC. Her commitment to her new vocation was secured when her parents created a training area on the farm dedicated to her sport.
“My dad built a cage for me to train in on the farm. Every day I am down there, my mum comes down there to watch me training and tell me what I am doing wrong - keeping me on my toes,” she smiles.
Progression has been swift and since representing Ireland at the 2021 European Athletics U20 Championships in Tallinn, Estonia aged 17, she reached the final at last year’s World Athletics U20 Championships in Cali, Colombia placing eighth.
Her upward trajectory has continued in 2023. “Training has been going very well. Plenty of throwing, plenty of gym. I’m getting a bit stronger and I am in college now in University College Dublin. It’s a bit of a change, but I am happy there. Everything seems to have come on a bit.”
She has built a team of coaches to support her technically and in strength and conditioning in the form of Killian Barry, Kevin Warner and Roland Korom. Her meticulous approach is also extended to her academic life where she is studying Biological, Biomedical, Biomolecular Science in Dublin.
With her attention to detail aligned with her talent and commitment, Tuthill is primed to go a long way, just like the hammer, which she is launching ever farther.
Chris Broadbent for European Athletics