Meet Niamh McCarthy, possibly the world's fastest learning discus thrower 2 years ago

Meet Niamh McCarthy, possibly the world's fastest learning discus thrower

The Paralympic Games get underway in Rio on Wednesday.

Cork woman Niamh McCarthy heads into the 15th summer games as the third ranked competitor in her event - the F41 discus.

Impressive. What makes McCarthy's status all but incredible is the fact that, when the 14th Paralympics finished up in London four years ago, she did not even know what a discus was.

She did not touch one until October of 2012, when she attended a talent search in UCD. Her natural skill was spotted and she was invited back to Dublin to undertake some tests.

Those tests presumably revealed that McCarthy would make one hell of a discus thrower because in less than four years she has established herself as one of the three best in the world.

The rate of her progression has been phenomenal.

In June 2014 she took part in the IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Berlin and recorded a personal best of 19.6 metres. At last October's World Games in Doha she won bronze and at the start of this year she set a personal best of 24.98m in France, before smashing it to smithereens when winning silver at the European Championships in June with a throw of 27.05m. Check it out below.

All this from someone who did not know what a discus was four years ago. It is little wonder the former Biological and Chemical Sciences student has given up working full-time to focus on her sport.

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She has moved to Dublin to train under the guidance of Dave Sweeney and will be targeting gold in Rio this September. Even if it hasn't been completely plain sailing (or flying).

She may be a Paralympian but McCarthy does not see herself as disabled, telling the Evening Echo last year that there is no defined name for the cause of her small stature.

“I’ve never considered myself disabled. I am just a bit smaller but I am in proportion, whereas with most other conditions, a person might not be in proportion so there isn’t really a name for what I have," she said.

“I could have let it be a challenge in my life but you just have to get on with it.

“If you can’t reach something, you don’t wait for someone to come along and get it for you. You grab a chair.

“The only physical issues I deal with is that I have slightly less flexible shoulders, which is common among those of short stature anyway. I have Lordosis, which is curvature of the spine so if I am sore, it has probably originated in my back.”

A keen sky-diver also, McCarthy is clearly the kind of person who enjoys a challenge and there is no greater test than the Paralympic Games.

The 22-year-old will be gunning for a medal in the Olympic Stadium and who would doubt her - sure she is only getting started.

As the official energy partner to Paralympics Ireland, Flogas are delighted to work alongside brand ambassadors Michael McKillop, Katie-George Dunlevy, Eve McCrystal, Patrick O'Leary and Niamh McCarthy.

Flogas are backing our heroes with positive energy and encourage fans to send messages using the hashtag #PositiveEnergy