Harp player walks tall in Games debut
Posted on 04/25/20 7:45 PM
Erika Kelly, of the Isle of Man, pounds the pavement in the 20km race walkClaire Tallent getting disqualified and fellow n Jemima Montag winning gold were the obvious story-lines from a dramatic Commonwealth Games women’s 20km walk.
But the athlete who finished ninth on Sunday has some tale to tell as well.
Erika Kelly, 25, is from the self-governing British dependency of the Isle of Man, population 83,000, which is somewhat unusual in itself.
She has a genetic eye disease, which has left her almost blind in her right eye.
And she is an accomplished Celtic harp player, one good enough to have racked up more than half a million views on YouTube.
“I was working full-time in the Treasury to fund a psychology degree alongside my walking training and harp playing,” the multi-talented Kelly told BBC Sport when she was named in the 32-strong Isle of Man team for the 2018 Games.
“When I was selected my training increased three-fold from around 35km a week to in excess of 100km a week and something had to give.”
Kelly’s impaired vision means she is unable to see when walk judges give her red cards during races – three of which result in disqualification.
The rules of the sport forbid the officials from issuing the cautions out loud.
That wasn’t a problem for Kelly on Sunday – unlike Tallent, who was DQed two kilometres from the finish line when in the gold-medal position.
For the record, the Isle of Man’s most famous sportsperson is cyclist Mark Cavendish, aka the Manx Missile.
Cavendish’s long list of honours include 30 Tour de France stage victories and gold in the scratch race at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.
He was forced to withdraw from the Gold Coast Games team after breaking a rib in a crash in the Milan-San Remo race in March.