Nick Griggs: Tyrone’s athletic talent says his late brother will be ‘with me’ as he pursues more European glory
|Place: Abbotstown, Fingal-Dublin Dated: Sunday 12 December|
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“Every time I go out on the track for a race, he’s there with me.”
And Nick will feel it again this Sunday in Dublin as he aims to win two more medals by wearing the Irish vest at the European Cross Country Championships.
âThey were the most amazing brothers. They did it all together,â Royanne, Nick’s mother, said of her two beloved sons.
How well Nick came together to win in Estonia just six weeks after the tragic death of his 19-year-old brother while working a summer job is something this most mature 16-year-old wonders sometimes.
But these thoughts are fleeting.
“Everyone’s like ‘I don’t know how you get up in the morning or how you did that so soon after?’ but you can’t do anything else, âsays Nick, from Tyrone village of Newmills, located between Dungannon and Coalisland.
“He was my hero”
âYou can’t just sit in bed and cry. You can cry at your own pace.
âI had to keep running. It gave me a focus where I could run and clear my head and focus on these Europeans in particular was really helpful because it was six weeks away.
“I had already achieved the qualifying standard. I had to keep training and working and if I could do anything during these Europeans it would be huge for me and for Josh as well. I could devote it to him. . “
And dedicate it, he did so as he showed the sky before and after a 3,000m final where he blew up the peloton to claim a dominant victory in a championship that had simply been booked as an experience of learning for young Tyrone as he ran older. opponents.
âSome people are blood siblings, but we were siblings who were really, really close,â the Cookstown High School student said of his relationship with Josh.
âSince he was my only brother, he was my hero. All I wanted was to watch him and follow in his footsteps. Do whatever he did to make it hard to lose him, but he is. always with me in my heart. “
“The mix of communities is what Josh wanted”
Even though the Griggs family is not of Catholic descent, the inter-community mentality of Royanne and her English-born husband Andy prompted their two sons to play Gaelic football for the nearby Brackaville club.
Indeed, Nick says being on the same Brackaville Under-14 team as Josh who won the league and county championship titles in 2016 is one of his fondest memories.
“Celebrating this with him is something I will never forget.”
Josh’s funeral was held at the Brackaville club and the love Owen Roes faithful have for the Griggs family was evident in images posted on social media of club members watching and celebrating Nick’s unexpected triumph in Estonia.
Last Friday night, the club unveiled the Josh Griggs Memorial Trophy which will now be presented to Brackaville’s Under-15 Player of the Year. Josh’s typical selflessness had driven him to coach the Under-15 team, even though he himself was making waves as a player who trained with Tyrone GAA Academy and despite his college commitments at Jordanstown.
âThe whole club is just a huge community even though we’re not from that background,â Nick adds.
“It’s good that it shows breakthroughs in this country of the past that would never have happened. The mix of communities is really good and that’s what Joshua wanted. They’ve been amazing the whole time.”
“I started to train properly during the lockdown”
Inevitably, Josh played a major role in Nick’s involvement in athletics, although the sight of Usain Bolt’s triumphs in London 2012 has already planted the seed in the mind of the seven-year-old.
âJosh used to cross country even though he was more of a sprinter, he just did it all. So when I went to Cookstown High School a few years after him, he just encouraged me to attend. all events “so that we can This is how it really started.
“I started to train with [the] Mid Ulster [club] when I was in third grade at school.
“Once I hit the lockdown I started training properly and then realized I was going to have to give up Gaelic if I wanted to focus properly on running because you don’t have time and you could hurt you. I decided this about a year ago. “
Nick having stepped up his training program under the guidance of his mid-Ulster-era coach Barrie Holmes, he immediately rose to European Under-20 Championship level at the start of the 2021 season in May. and, as an athlete from Northern Ireland, the option of representing Great Britain was there, his mind was “already turned to Ireland”.
“I had put on the Irish vest and even though it was just an international school event in third grade, that didn’t mean I had to declare at this point, but at 14 I never had felt such pride in my life and I was like, ‘this is what I want to do’. “
A nervous wait ensued for his Irish passport before he finally arrived just three days before his departure for the Baltic Sea.
Aiming to follow in Ingebrigtsen’s footsteps
Nick says the “welcome” from his teammates and management showed he had made the right decision even before winning gold in Tallinn which meant a fourth title for the Irish in the middle of the double in the sprint of Rhasidat Adeleke and the triumph of Cian McPhillips over 1500m.
âI didn’t know what to expect but everyone was so open and welcoming. There was a real buzz about it. We won four gold medals in Estonia and I think we came third in the General classification.”
As for this weekend, Nick will take part in an Under-20 race won in the last four championships by a certain Jakob Ingebrigtsen, now the world’s dominant middle distance runner after winning the Olympic 1500m title in Tokyo.
While Mark Kirk, who now guides the 16-year-old after Barrie Holmes recommended that he need more specialized coaching after his triumph in Estonia, warns that there are “four or five very good athletes on the pitch, âNick insists he will aim for victory. like always.
âI hope I can win and follow in the footsteps of someone like Jakob, someone who is touted in the long distance running community as one of the greatest runners of all time,â adds Nick, who will be 17 on December 18.
âIt’s going to be really tough, but there’s no point in running if you don’t believe you can win.
“The goal is always to win even if it’s ambitious and if you fail, you just have to get up and start over and keep training hard, then come back next time and hopefully win. .
“Ireland also have a very good team. Maybe we should have a good chance of winning a team medal.
“If we all shoot and if we are doing well there is a good chance that everyone in Ireland – not just the Under-20 team but the likes of Hiko [Tonosa], Darragh McElhinney and Sarah Healy and all – should be doing very well. It’s very exciting.”
And all the while, Nick will feel Josh’s presence with him.