Team Ireland were greeted with a heroes’ welcome at their official homecoming from the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria. Twenty-six athletes from both floorball and alpine skiing landed at Dublin Airport last Saturday with two gold medals, three silver, three bronze and participation ribbons for fourth and fifth places.
Team Ireland Head of Delegation Karen Coventry said it has been a proud week for Irish sport.
“This group of athletes went to a World Games with 2,600 athletes from 105 nations and absolutely gave it their all,” she said. “Every single floorballer and alpine skier has come home a better athlete than when they left and they have earned memories that will last them a lifetime.”
The Floorball Teams 1 and 2 finished fourth and fifth respectively in their divisions, and generated a rousing atmosphere whenever they took to the court in Messe Graz. There was a personal best or medal for each of Ireland’s six alpine skiers on the slopes of Schladming.
Niall Flynn (30) from Dublin took 3.5 seconds off his best time over the course of the Super Glide competition with Laoise Kenny (16) from Dublin taking fourth in both the Novice Slalom and Giant Slalom. There was Gold for Sean McCartan (16) from Co. Armagh in the Slalom event of his first Games with Bronze in the Giant Slalom. Special Olympics Irelan d CEO Matt English said Team Ireland’s achievements were only possible with the support of volunteers, supporters and sponsors both at home and abroad.
“A huge amount of work and resources go into competing at this level and planning for Austria 2017 started immediately after our last Winter Games in Korea four years ago,” he said. “A huge thanks must go firstly to the coaches and volunteers who were part of our 38 person delegation, but there were a further 90 volunteers who raised funds to come out and be part of this experience. “Our mission to give our athletes access to the very best sporting facilities and competitions would not be possible without our sponsors so huge thanks must go to Aer Lingus, eir and Gala Retail at these Games.”
Team Ireland’s youngest member Caolan McConville (13) from Co. Antrim secured Silver and Bronze in his events, while Cyril Walker followed up on his Giant Slalom Bronze with Silver in the Slalom. Further delight ensued for the Armagh man as Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped up on stage to present his medal and ask for a selfie, which promptly went viral on social media. Lorraine Whelan (36) from Co. Wicklow capped a successful week with Gold in the Intermediate Slalom after an earlier Silver. Government Chief Whip, Regina Doherty TD, paid tribute to all involved in the Special Olympics World Winter Games.
“It was fantastic to see Team Ireland doing so well in Austria over the last week or so, continuing the great legacy of Irish involvement in the Special Olympics movement,” she said.