THEY rarely get to practise on snow-covered pistes at home but Ireland's Special Olympics skiers are to do battle for their country in South Korea.
The 14 members of Team Ireland were given a rousing send-off at Dublin Airport as they jetted out to PyeongChang for the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games, which begin next week.
The small but dedicated group includes six skiers, who train on dry slopes, and an eight-strong floorball team. Floorball is similar to hockey.
The athletes are accompanied by volunteer coaches and a medical officer.
Wishing the team well, Sports Minister Michael Ring said their preparations had involved huge effort. "I know that each of the 14 athletes will compete with immense pride and will enjoy the competition, the unique experience and the honour of representing their country," he added.
Special Olympics Ireland chief executive Matt English told the athletes that their fans back home in Ireland would be keeping a close eye on their progress on the other side of the world.
"Every member of the team has shown great dedication to their training and sport over the past number of months and I am sure that these preparations will pay off at the Games," he added.
John Treacy, chief executive of the Irish Sports Council, said the athletes always represent their country with distinction.
"It is very exciting that floorball is now on the event programme as it is growing in popularity in Ireland.
"Good luck to our athletes in that event – they are real pioneers for the discipline."
Updates on Team Ireland's progress will be posted on www.specialolympics.ie/wintergames.