Oisin Langan speaks to the Tyrone native in Rio
Sitting in the main press centre between events I notice a disturbing story developing from Kilkee. As no doubt you’ve seen or heard the incredibly brave and selfless Caitriona Lucas has lost her life in the act of trying to keep others out of danger.
Words are pointless. They cannot some up the numbness and devastation caused by such loss. Such as passing reminds you of the one certainty in this life that will eventually get us all, it‘s hovering over every day and can arrive unannounced. It doesn’t give you time to tell people all things you wanted to tell them, to leave your legacy wrapped up in a bow or to do a round of good-byes so do that continuously every day because there will come a time when the chance will be gone.
Over the last few days I’ve seen elite-level athletes who are here because a brush with death has left it’s mark. Unlucky to have been left with a lifelong reminder of their close call but lucky to have survived they have made the decision to win a medal at these Games but more importantly to win at life, to take the time given and do something few us do and fulfil our potential.
Today, Tyrone's Phil Eaglesham, a driven man who rose through the ultra tough ranks to Commando in the Royal Marines contracted Q-fever in Afghanistan in 2010 and has since suffered what he calls "a steep decline". It took a while for the 34-year-old to adapt to his new circumstances which left him confined to a wheelchair due to impaired muscle power. There were days when he didn’t want to take the second chance.
"Two-years-ago, I was at the darkest point of my life, when i didn’t want to be alive anymore". The light in that dark time was his children whom he wanted to set an example too. "After I got help I made the decision to prove to my kids and hopefully inspire other people that no matter how bad things get you can always do something great."
It’s a lesson he hopes his kids will take with them as they grow. "It will only help them as life goes on, when things get tough they can see Dad and what happened to him and where he went to." The lesson doesn’t end there though as the sternly affable and charming Eaglesham points out; "the journey doesn’t stop here but it’s a milestone to be at the greatest show on Earth".
Ultimately he’s a military man so when he does something he wants to do it right and be the best. "I’m here to win a medal. I’ve believed in myself all the way."
We mentioned Eaglesham's charm, and while he’s here for business that doesn’t mean there can’t be any pleasure with his #philsbeard campaign showing a comic relief style approach to fundraising. The idea came from the dark place he entered in the tough times.
"That all goes back to the dark times two-years-ago I grew a beard so people wouldn’t recognise me it became a way of hiding myself. I thought that was something we could do to highlight mental health and peoples struggles."
He points out that growing a beard or wearing a hat is a way some hide away so you won’t recognise them. Phil Eaglesham lines up for competition today. He’ll have got there the hard way but like everyone else who competes at these games he inspires and just like everyone else he’s looking for medals not sympathy.