Mary Fitzgerald-Life With No Limits | Enable Ireland

Personal Stories

Hear first-hand from parents and adults with experience of Enable Ireland services.

Mary Fitzgerald-Life With No Limits

“As far as I’m concerned, I may be four foot tall, but I feel there is no limit to what I can do!”

Girl wearing green with medals around her neckMy name is Mary FitzGerald and I am a 19 year old international para athlete from Kilkenny. I am of short stature, standing at just over four foot tall. I am currently in my first year of Occupational Therapy at University College Cork, where I was one of five students awarded a Sports Scholarship under the Quercus Talented Students’ Programme. 

I first starting attending the Enable Ireland centre in Kilkenny when I was just a few months old. Even though I had a ‘disability’, I was struck with a can-do attitude from day one. I was able to avail of a wide range of services, such as physiotherapy, speech and language therapy and occupational therapy. I always looked forward to going into the centre. The staff were always so welcoming and friendly. It did not matter whether you were of short stature, in a wheelchair or an amputee, you could do anything, maybe just in a slightly different way to your peers. 

I was always a very active person, and I hated sitting down doing nothing for more than five minutes. From kicking around a football playing with the boys at school and iceskating, to horse riding and ice hockey with Kilkenny City Storm, I didn’t see the fact that I was a little shorter than my friends as a reason to hold back. 

Sport means so much to me. As well as giving me the opportunity to compete on the international stage for my country, I have gained so much confidence and independence. My main events are javelin, discus and shot put. Within eight years I have received so many opportunities through para sport. Since 2010, I have competed at three DSAUK (Dwarf Sports Association United Kingdom) Games. In 2013, I was part of the fifteen-membered Irish team that travelled to East Lansing, Michigan in the US. Walking out in our Irish tracksuits while the Irish anthem was played made me extremely proud and I will never forget it. I won three gold medals, two silver medals and two bronze medals. In 2014, I competed at my first I.W.A.S. (International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports) World Games in Stoke-Mandeville, UK. It was my first international para event. I met so many inspirational athletes, and I was in awe from the minute I stepped on the track. In 2016, I travelled to Prague, Czech Republic for the IWAS U23 World Junior Games and won gold in three events. In 2017, I travelled to Monte Gordo, Portugal for the IWAS World Games, and in July 2018 I competed at my fourth I.W.A.S. World Games.

I cannot emphasise enough how important sport has been in my life. In everyday life, it is often difficult to avoid being faced with the negatives of having a ‘disability’. It’s often what you are not able to do that is highlighted, whether in public or in the media. I believe that the word ‘disability’ is inappropriate, as it doesn’t represent these amazing people, who despite their challenges, are able to do pretty much anything, just in a different way to how a ‘normal’ person would do something.

At the moment, my next goal is to qualify for the World Para Athletics Championships which will be held in Dubai in 2019, and of course the next Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan in 2020. As far as I’m concerned, I may be four foot tall, but I feel there is no limit to what I can do! As the saying goes; “Never tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon!”

If I were to say something to a young person, it would be this. Don’t let your ‘disability’ define you. Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot do anything! You can do anything you put your mind to! The only disability in life is a bad attitude! Remember your abilities and what you can do!