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Fitz Flying On Confidence

Paul Grech Tuesday, September 23, 2014 , , ,
Often, when Maltese athletes travel to compete abroad, sceptics and armchair critics will complain over the futility of it all; arguing that the money spent to finance such trips would have been better utilised on some other endeavour.  What is the point of incurring these expenses knowing that success is next to impossible and embarrassment a distinct possibility, the argument goes.

What those who hold such opinions fail to appreciate, however, is that for most sports people the possibility facing better athletes – which competition abroad often provides – is what drives them on.

That is certainly the case with Rachel Fitz.  The young sprinter has worn Maltese colours at three events this year (the World Indoor Championships, the Commonwealth Championships and the European Cup) and these have been life changing events for her.

“I’ve definitely experienced a mental shift,” she reflects.  “It all started when I came back from the World Indoors.   I saw so many good athletes who work so hard and that inspired me.  I want to get to that level; I want to run as fast as they do.  It is impossible not to be motivated when you see those athletes.”

Rachel certainly has, as she readily admits.  “Before, athletics was just a hobby for me.  I did well but my results weren’t anything special.  Then this year I started to focus a bit more and as a consequence my performances improved.  Obviously, when you’re setting good times you are encouraged to work harder and do even better.  My current goal is to go under 12 seconds in the 100m, it is a big motivation for me.”

Those good results that she mentions allowed her to win her spot in the 60m dash in the World Indoor Championships.  It was a big moment for her not only because it meant that she had to face the banked track to which local athletes are not used to but also as it provided Rachel with her debut in a major international competition.

Indeed, that psychological challenge of going toe-to-toe with athletes of international repute in front of big audiences can be as crippling as any physical test.

“At first I was a wreck! I was really, really nervous,” she says, talking about those minutes leading her event.  “Then I began doing my warm up and started getting even more nervous.  As soon as I walked out on to the track, however, it passed.  There were lots of people watching, giving you courage to go out and do your best.  So when the time came to compete, I wasn’t nervous at all.”

That experience helped here when it came to the Commonwealth games where she took part in the 4 x 100m relay.  “There was some nervousness but then I reasoned that I was there with my friends and we were going to do well.”

“I was running the fourth leg so my focus was directed entirely on the track’s markings to ensure that I didn’t over-run without the baton.  When I’m running I’m wholly focused on my movements because otherwise you risk making mistakes.”

All of this year’s experiences have set her up nicely to keep improving both in the current and next year.  “Long term I want to aim for the Olympics but next year the main target is the Small Nations’ Games.”

“This year I feel like I have improved my technique a lot.  My start has always been so now I need to work to increase a bit more speed.  I’ll be working with my coach Edward Grech to make sure I get that.”

This article was originally published on the Times of Malta on August 29, 2014.  An image of the article can be found here.


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