Coryell using brain game to target Tokyo gold after COVID-19 battle

Lia Coryell on the line at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Content from the Olympic Information Service.

Lisa Coryell – Lia – will use her head when she targets W1 women’s gold as competition at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games begins today.

“I absolutely think I can win a medal because of my brain game,” she said during practice.

During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the world went into lockdown, Coryell was training hard to book her ticket to the Games.

But the 56-year-old had to pause her practice when she was diagnosed with pericarditis, an infection around the lining of the heart.

“It’s an autoimmune disease, where my body attacked my heart because I was so sad,” she said, alluding to the stress she felt at being isolated from other people. At greater risk to COVID-19 due to multiple sclerosis, which she was diagnosed with at the age of 23, Lia had to be extra careful.

“Social distancing only works if you can interact with other people, otherwise is solitary confinement.”

Life was about to take a very serious turn. In November, she tested positive for the virus and was hospitalised for two weeks.

“I almost died of COVID-19 and I’ve been very sick,” she said. “I spent many days in the hospital, looking at the ceiling, breathing and mentalising [the Paralympic Games]. I just see it. It’s on my head all the time.”

Three days after leaving her first stint in hospital, she developed complications due to bacterial pneumonia in both lungs.

It was another tough 10-week battle back to health before being able to resume training in January.

“I didn’t come back from the dead not to make it to the Paralympics,” Coryell said after booking her quota spot for Tokyo at the continental quota tournament in Monterrey in March.

Lia served in the US army for two years in the 1980s when she was a teenager but was discharged on medical grounds. She discovered para archery after accompanying younger veterans to a sports clinic.

She has been competing internationally since 2015 and made her Paralympic debut five years ago in Rio, where she finished seventh.

The archery competitions at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games start with qualification on Firday 27 August 2021.