US thrower Rachael Morrison ready to take on her rivals in Rio

US thrower Rachael Morrison is all set to battle for gold at her first Paralympic Games in September.

The 29-year-old will line up in the discus and club throw F51 against a field including Great Britain’s Jo Butterfield, who will also be competing at her first Paralympic Games.

Both Morrison and Butterfield have only been involved in Para athletics since 2014 – Morrison was paralysed in 2012 by a condition called transverse myelitis that causes damage to the spinal cord; Butterfield was paralysed the same year after an operation to remove a tumour from her spinal cord.

A thrilling rivalry unfolded when the pair went head-to-head at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar, last year - Morrison won the discus while Butterfield came out on top in the club throw.

It’s a rivalry that is set to reignite in Rio de Janeiro next month, and Morrison for one believes that the prospect of another tough competition will help to bring out her best.

“I’m going to have to work for whatever I get there,” admitted Morrison, who also won Parapan Am discus gold and club throw silver twelve months ago.

“It’s so much more exciting because you have a closer rivalry. In general I do throw to compete against myself, because if I do my best then I’m doing well.

“But it’s also really nice to have other people throwing a similar distance, and (Butterfield) is doing really well – I’m really proud of her.”

Just weeks after Morrison began throwing in spring 2014, she took part in the US Paralympics Track and Field National Championships – and added nearly three metres to the club throw F51 world record – a mark which had stood for more than 13 years.

It wasn’t long before the American was at it again - this time throwing new world records in both the club throw and discus at a meeting in the Czech Republic.

The Spokane-based Para athlete has improved on her discus world record mark a further two times since then – first at Doha 2015, where she managed 12.86m, then in June this year when she threw a massive 13.56m to top the world rankings.

Morrison modestly admits that she still finds it hard to believe how much she has achieved in such a short space of time.

“Oh no, I cannot believe it,” she said. “I started by chance, got picked up by chance all on the same day, and there were many months when I had no idea what I was doing. I said ‘Just direct me and tell me what to do please, I have no idea what is going on.’

“I’m getting used to the different training cycles, learning stuff as I go along, getting more educated about elite athletics; mental and physical training, fuelling the body.”

Morrison knows every experience counts as she heads towards her biggest stage to date – and last year’s World Championships provided the ideal stepping stone.

“That was really helpful -having the second big international competition under my belt has definitely helped me feel more ready for the biggest competition – Rio,” she admitted.

Butterfield meanwhile has also been in great form, winning European club throw gold with a new world record of 22.75m in June – although the likes of the USA’s Cassie Mitchell should not be ignored either. The former Para cycling world champion sits second in the club throw world rankings having thrown a personal best of 21.72m at the IPC Athletics Grand Prix Final in July this year.

Still, while competition in Rio may be fierce, Morrison likes to keep it in perspective.

“I still say I have the best job in the world,” she added. “It’s so fun. Who wouldn’t love to work out for their job? It's loads of fun and I wouldn’t want to be doing it if it wasn’t fun.”
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The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
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