Shooting star Kirsty Hegarty believes her recent ISSF Shooting World Cup gold shows she is herself again after a challenging experience at Tokyo 2020.
The 33-year old from Craigavon did not make the women's trap shooting final in Tokyo after finishing 16th.
But she was back to her best at in Lonato at the end of April, edging out Puerto Rico's Augusta Campos-Martyn by 31 shots to 28 to mark a triumphant return to form on the World Cup stage.
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"It was fantastic to win because when I won the quota place for Tokyo, my form dipped," said Hegarty. "I struggled a lot in the run into the Olympics, and really it was only after the Olympics that I felt like I was back to my normal self and shooting to my full potential.
"I think I just put too much pressure on myself.
"I thought that going to the Olympics would change my life and it was so much more built up in my head than it was. My parents always told me to treat every competition like any other competition.
"With the Olympics, I didn't. I built it up too much and it impacted my performance. The experience of that, looking back on it now, was great because the Olympics is the pinnacle, and now I can go into every competition like any other competition."
Hegarty made her name on the world stage after winning the Commonwealth Shooting Championships in Delhi in 2010 and eight years later, she returned with a silver from the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
The same year brought another silver at the European Championships in Leobersdorf and bronze at the 2018 ISSF Shooting World Championships in Changwon, with a second-placed finish at the Al Ain World Cup then enough to earn a quota place for the 2020 Olympic Games.
Hegarty is continuing to reflect on the lessons learned from her time in Tokyo and hopes they will stand her in good stead as she heads into the Paris cycle.
She added: "If you speak to a lot of people, that is their experience of their first Olympics. It is a big platform, and all of a sudden, you feel like the eyes of the country are on you.
"It is a lot to deal with and there are some incredibly strong people who come out at their first Olympics and win a medal.
"But I think the majority of medal winners come from their second Olympics. I guess that is pressure a lot of people feel.
"The final at the World Cup was a little bit surreal because I just felt so relaxed, I knew I had done all my preparation, and I just knew things were going to go my way. It was really strange because I felt so relaxed for the whole competition.
"It is sort of like a double-edged sword, the Olympics, because it can take over your life. You focus solely on that and miss out on other opportunities in the sport."
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