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18 Aug 2022

No limits on Jill

Modest 'Try-aTri' athlete back at gym

Jill McCallion on the Try a Tri finish line

Jill McCallion on the Try a Tri finish line

Jill McCallion was taking all of her well-deserved accolades in her modest stride.

Crowned the Queen of Bayswater by her neighbour and a legend by her sisters and brother, the Derry athlete was back in the gym training one day after her 'Try-a-Tri' success on Sunday.

Jill completed the highly successful Danny Quigley Fund 'Try-a-Tri' Triathlon, organised by the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum, much to delight of mum, Sandra McDermott, trainer, Sinéad Lynch, and the crowds who cheered her over the Templemore Sports' Complex finishing line.

As she left PureGym after her Tuesday training session, delighted assistant manager, Ciaran Smith described Jill's work ethic in the leading up to 'Try-a-Tri' as “unreal”.

He said: “Everyone here is excited to see Jill back in training, working towards her goals and her next adventure.”

The finish line is in sight.

Speaking to Derry Now, Jill said everyone was delighted for her, especially her sisters, Laura and Jenny, and her brother, Andrew.

“I felt happy to have completed the 'Try-a-Tri'” said Jill, “and my sister said I was a legend.”

A very humble young woman, Jill has not even shared her 'Try-a-Tri' success on Social media.

She added: “Before lockdown, I worked in Oakgrove Primary School as a classroom assistant. During lockdown I did 10 Zoom classes a week with Foyle Down Syndrome Trust, which was brilliant. We did all sorts of activities, including, karaoke, cooking and gardening. They were a brilliant support.”

Outside of athletics, Jill is very busy, according to Sandra.

“Jill goes to Foyle Down Syndrome Trust on Mondays; the gym on Tuesdays; swimming and Foyle Down Syndrome Trust on Wednesdays; Foyle Down Syndrome Trust's social enterprise activities and the gym; and the Foyle Down Syndrome Trust's social activities on Fridays. She was at the Bowling Alley last week.”

“Jill also made the finals of the Local Women NI Young Inspirational Woman 2022 award a few weeks ago. She was nominated by Bronagh for her gym work and her work ethic. We enjoyed a lovely afternoon in the Europa in Belfast.”

Jill is also a member of Inclusively Fit, which is run by Sinéad and her friend, Bronagh McNamara, who are also planning to launch the complementary Ruby's Fitness app in the next couple of months.

Sinéad explained she had known Jill for a long time, through the Foyle Down Syndrome Trust, of which her late daughter, Ruby, was also a member.

Sinéad added: “Bronagh would also have known Jill through the Foyle Down Syndrome Trust, because she worked there. When Inclusively Fit started, Bronagh was training Jill. At the start, Jill, was very nervous of the gym and Bronagh would have done more play based, fun based activities. But once she was in the gym, Jill came on so well so, so well.” smiled Sinéad.

Jill's clearly delighted mum, Sandra, said Jill continued her training via Zoom classes with Bronagh throughout lockdown.

Jill with Danny Quigley, mum, Sandra, and coach, Sinéad Lynch.

Chatting about Sunday's 'Try-a-Tri' Triathlon, Sandra said, Jill had been training hard for the past eight weeks. “We decided to give 'Try-a-Tri' a go whenever it was first announced by the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum. We went to the meeting and asked if it would be okay and that is when Jill entered.

“In terms of swimming, Jill trains in Templemore Sports' Complex on Wednesday nights, along with the Special Olympics swimmers, so that element of 'Try-a-Tri' was already sorted. She used a static bike for the event. The bike was one of the biggest issues for us. Initially we thought about a trike because Jill has some experience on a trike but they are very heavy and we were a bit worried about that on the main road. So, we settled for a static bike and Jill did the whole distance herself.

“The challenge of learning to ride a bicycle is now on Jill's to do list. On Sunday, she cycled for three miles, swam for 250 metres (10 lengths of the pool) and ran 3 kilometres, the same as all of the other runners,” said Sandra beaming.

An emotional, Sinéad, said Jill's success in 'Try-a-Tri' was her favourite thing ever in all her years of personal training.

“It was the happiest and proudest thing to see.

“I have trained in a lot of places, a lot of people, but that was definitely my favourite moment, just seeing Jill coming across the finish line. It just meant so much to Jill and Sandra, as well as Bronagh and myself. It was great just, that achievement and that confirmation that she can do it. We were all in tears.”

Jill and proud mum, Sandra.

Sandra said she was nervous before the event but Jill was “as cool as a cucumber”.

“There was not a nerve about her. I knew she would do the swim okay and she was brilliant at the cycle. I relaxed once she went outside, I really relaxed. I knew she could do it because I had run with her as well.

“To see her waving at the crowd as she ran past was just amazing, absolutely amazing.

Reflecting, Sinéad said: “I was always into fitness, even at school, so I went on and did my sports' degree. I was managing sports' facilities in Dublin for a while, but I quickly realised I wanted to be more hands-on, so I went back and did my personal training qualifications and weight management consultancy. I have been running my own personal training business for more than 20 years in Wicklow and Dublin and now back in Derry.

“When I moved back to Derry five years ago, I was not personal training because I had two young daughters, Anna and Ruby. Ruby had Down Syndrome and passed away four years ago, very suddenly. I had not been working because I was caring for her.

Jill and Sinéad on the Try-a-Tri run.

“A wee while after that, a friend said to me, 'Why don't you get back into personal training?' So, I started back just personal training the general public. I had known Bronagh years ago but met her again through her work with the Foyle Down Syndrome Trust, where she would have looked after, Ruby. Bronagh approached me one day. She had had the idea of combining our joint experience in the fitness field, with her experience of working with people with additional needs, and exploring the idea of starting up our own business to train people with additional needs.

“That's is now Inclusively Fit, which is going brilliantly. We launched just before the very first lockdown and it was great. During lockdown, we did everything on Zoom, which was fantastic because there were groups out in Feeney, which is quite rural, and groups in Derry and Kildare who got in touch with us. Ruby would have been a member of Kildare Down Syndrome Trust. Schools in Limavady also got in touch with us, so we were able to do Zoom the whole time. But, now the lockdown is over, we are back Inclusively Fit in person. We do personal training and group exercise with different groups throughout Derry. It has really taken off. The need for it is unbelievable. Anyone who is interested can find us on Facebook and Instagram,” said Sinéad.

Sinéad described Jill as “amazing”.

She said: “She never complains at any session. She puts her full effort into it every time she is with me.

“She is a role model, show what is possible. There are no limits. That is the big thing myself and Bronagh and Inclusively Fit believe.

Jill in the Try-a-Tri pool.

“There should not be limits put on anyone and there should be encouragement to try everything. Jill is proof of that. She really, really is and I am so proud of her.”

Sandra said the change in Jill since she started the gym, particularly after lockdown was amazing.

“Her confidence has increased. Jill is innately shy and quiet and very humble. But I saw her confidence on Sunday, with the big smiles and raising the hands, even going up for her trophy without looking to me to go with her. I think that is credit to Sinéad and Bronagh.”

Photographs courtesy of Jim McCafferty.

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