Bound for Rio
Helen Kearney has battled against all the odds to represent her country
Published 13/07/2016 | 02:30
London 2012 seems a long time ago, but not for our athletes who contributed to Ireland's best haul of 16 medals at a Paralympic Games since Seoul in 1988.
The Seoul Games were a year before Helen Kearney was born and only her family will remember those Games, but they will never forget London, where Helen became one of the most successful athletes of this era with three medals to her name in what was a fantastic two weeks for Ireland's Paralympians.
Helen had travelled across the Irish Sea with high hopes aboard her horse Mr Cool, but exceeded her own expectations by a mile when winning team bronze and individual bronze and silver.
"In 2011 I claimed Ireland's first European Para Equestrian medal, but London really was a dream come through for me and I was honoured to represent my country there.
"The best score up to that had been 73pc, so to gain a mark of 76pc was amazing," commented the 27-year-old.
Fast forward four years and the Dunlavin, Co Wicklow native is now busy preparing to fly the flag once more having been recently confirmed as Ireland's sole representative in the para equestrian competitions in Rio in two months' time.
It has been a long journey to get here, but it is all the more remarkable given Helen's story to date.
Diagnosed with the rare degenerative condition Friedreich's Ataxia (FA) at the age of 13 following surgery for scoliosis, Helen quickly threw herself into horse-riding to distract herself from a disease for which there is currently no cure.