McCarthy-Smith's secret weapon
13 October 2018
BUENOS AIRES 2018: Aussie rower Taylor McCarthy-Smith has just finished off her impressive YOG campaign, finishing first in her B Final and fifth overall, but she’s had one secret weapon along for the ride. Her mum, Cathy McCarthy.
Eighteen-year-old McCarthy-Smith consistently excited the packed-out crowds on the riverbank, placing third in her semifinal, second in her quarterfinal and first in her heats, but her mum played a big part in making sure Taylor could hear the cheers of the Aussies from the top of the iconic Puente de la Mujer bridge.
With Cathy’s giant blow-up kangaroo, massive Aussie flag and chants to get the entire crowd revved up, Taylor felt as though she had the whole world behind her.
“Mum has always been my number one fan, it’s so awesome,” the Queenslander said.
“Everyone knows her, you can hear her from a mile away and people just say to themselves, ‘There’s Cathy!’
“Even when I was really little, she would be in the crowd cheering me on and would do her little ‘Yeeha!’ and everyone would know exactly who it was,” she laughed.
“I have to admit, as a kid I used to get embarrassed about it, but now I love it! From the time my brother was born, Mum has just dedicated herself to being our full-time cheerleader, it’s really special,” she said.
As well as being the two-time Junior National Rowing Champion and recently adding ‘Youth Olympian’ to her resume, McCarthy-Smith also held another record for several years, but in a completely different discipline.
“At school I always wanted to win the ‘Sports Girl of the Year’ award and did so every year from Year 6 to Year 12. I did softball, soccer, badminton, triathlon, heptathlon, modern pentathlon, athletics, cross-country, swimming and rowing, but I also did racewalking.
“I actually held the U9’s National Racewalking record up until February this year!” she said.
As for her Youth Olympic Games experience, McCarthy-Smith said it’s been the icing on the cake of some incredible international experiences. Her stellar performance in Argentina was less than three seconds off gold medallist Argentinian Sol Ordas’ time - an impressive feat for someone who competed in their very first international competition only last year.
“The entire experience has been amazing. When I went to the Junior World Rowing Championships last year, it was the first international competition I’d ever competed in and was the best thing I’d ever done,” she said.
“Being able to go again this year was even better but coming to the Youth Olympics is just incredible.
“The racing has been awesome, I love the 500m and I love sprinting so I’m really hoping it becomes an Olympic discipline!”
But this teenager’s dream almost wasn’t realised as she considered giving up the sport just before she made it into the 2017 Junior World Rowing Championships.
“My brother Toby started the rowing within our family and my sister Jessie took it up too. Toby randomly became really good at it and actually ended up going to the Youth Olympic festival,” she said.
“They thought I might be good at it, so started me early in sixth grade, whereas most people don’t start until eighth.
“To be honest I didn’t really think I’d stick with it for long, I thought it was more my brother and sisters’ thing but then I started to really enjoy it. I began winning competitions and just got really addicted – that was until last year before Worlds,” she shared.
“I hadn’t been overseas yet, I’d just made the Australian Team and was trying to balance school and a social life. It was really tough to manage it all. I had a lot of moments where I thought to myself, ‘do I actually want to do this, or do I just want to be a normal kid and live my life?’”
But McCarthy-Smith’s hesitations were short-lived.
“As soon as I competed overseas and had that experience, everything changed. It was the best thing I’d ever done in my life and every doubt I’d ever had just faded away.
“As soon as I came back my focus was on how I was going to do it all over again for 2018 Worlds. Now, I couldn’t give it up even if I wanted to!”
Now, Taylor will continue pursuing her dreams, hoping to nab a spot at Paris 2024.
"With rowing, you peak when you’re a little bit older, so Paris 2024 is on the agenda, but obviously if I can squeeze into some kind of boat for Tokyo 2020 that would be amazing! she said.
"I’m just going to keep working hard, I’ve got U23’s starting next year and have four years of that to prepare, with Senior A being the main goal."
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