For Una Brice, Athletics has always been a part of her life.
Her godfather was a discus thrower for Ireland, and went on to attend college in the United States on a scholarship, so when Brice’s father asked her if she wanted to get into athletics, she immediately said yes.
The 18 year old is both a sprinter and a pole vaulter, but even though she started her journey in athletics 13 years ago, she picked up pole vaulting only about 4 years ago.
“A coach turned to me and said—would you like to try pole vault—and at first I was like—no definitely not not going to happen,” said Brice. “My typical Irish mom was like—no you're going to try it, and then I went and I suppose I've never looked back since.”
Although the two disciplines may seem very different, Una Brice finds that the two work perfectly together.
“They compliment each other in the way that you need speed and you need endurance for both of them,” said Brice.
In the past year, the pole vaulter has been making waves becoming the national senior champion and jumping the national U18 indoor and outdoor records.
“To be the national record holder is something that not many people get to say, so that's just amazing for me,” said Brice.
To the Cork native, pole vaulting is a mental event as much as it is a physical one.
“That's the reality in pole vault, the bar will always win unless you walk away standing, and leave the bar standing,” said Brice. “The bar will always win at the end of the day, and you have to accept the fact that—yeah okay I'm coming out to try and jump a certain height, but sometimes that doesn't go as planned.”
When Brice was born, her and her twin, Eva, had something called twin transfusion syndrome—a rare condition between identical twins where one twin gets all the nutrients and the other gets virtually none.
In the case of the Brice twins, Una was born lacking blood and nutrients, and immediately needed blood transfusions upon her birth that saved her life.
Una has spent a lot of her time promoting giving blood, and although she cannot donate herself, on their 18th birthday, Eva donated her blood as a gift to Una.
“Our whole lives it's been a big thing—you know blood transfusions and how important they are—and then a few years ago like when I got selected from my first Irish team, there was a tweet that went out thanking the blood donors. I suppose we'll forever be grateful to them,” said Brice. “For us it's a big thing that we encourage the next generation to donate.”
This month 15 years ago our daughter was receiving her third blood transfusion. Today she boards a plane to compete for Ireland in Athletics. Huge thank you to all blood donors @Giveblood_ie pic.twitter.com/X77r5uJWYa
— Brendan Brice (@brendanbrice) July 19, 2019
Without blood donors, Una Brice would not be the international athlete she is today.
“Athletics has been the best part of my life. I've made so many friends, and I wouldn't change it for the world,” said Brice. “It's the closest you're ever going to get to flying really, so you have to enjoy the feeling.”