Sunday 25 September 2016

'It feels amazing to make history' - new Olympian Ellis (18) gears up for Rio

Ciara Treacy

Published 19/04/2016 | 02:30

Gymnast Ellis O'Reilly. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Gymnast Ellis O'Reilly. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Ellis O’Reilly competes on the vault during a qualification event in Baku, Azerbaijan, last year. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland’s David Joyce arrives back in Dublin after Olympic qualification to be met by his children Mickey Joe (4), Amber (1) and Rihanna (6). Photo: Sportsfile

Irish roots have brought Ellis O'Reilly to her Olympic dream, as she has become the country's first ever female gymnast to qualify for an Olympic Games.

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The 18-year-old, who lives in London, secured her place at Rio 2016 after her performance at the Aquece Rio test event yesterday morning at the HSBC Barra Olympic Arena in Brazil.

Ellis has qualified for the Irish team through her grandfather, who hailed from Co Armagh. She now joins fellow Irish gymnast Kieran Behan, who qualified for the Games on Saturday.

"It feels amazing to make history for Ireland and with my coach and Gymnastics Ireland," she told the Irish Independent.

"My grandfather was living in Northern Ireland which meant I could qualify this way. I've been to Ireland many times for training camps and competitions.

"My family couldn't make it to see me this weekend but I hope they can come to the summer Games. They were ecstatic when they heard that I got through."

Eillis has cousins remaining in Armagh, although she has never met them. The gymnast balances her sport with studying three A-levels, after which she hopes to study physical education in the UK.

She has been training for 12 years in the field at Europa Gymnastics Club in London, under her coach Sam James, who was by her side in Brazil.

"I'm over the moon," Ms Jones said. "Ellis is making history and personally to have a gymnast in the Olympics is just a dream come true. "We have two good competitions coming up, with the Irish championships on May 15 and on June 1 Ellis will be competing in Switzerland."

Speaking from Rio, Gymnastics Ireland CEO Ciaran Gallagher said Ellis' achievement was significant.

"This is a huge step forward for our women's programme and in becoming the first Irish female gymnast to qualify to an Olympic Games Ellis' achievement will serve to inspire to all the young up and coming Irish gymnasts who will want to follow in her footsteps," he said.

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring also congratulated Ireland's newly qualified athletes.

"It was the final qualifying event for the Games so it makes Ellis' achievement all the more remarkable," he said.

"It is a huge boost to Irish gymnastics and hopefully will inspire more girls to take up the sport and try to follow in Ellis' footsteps."

Over the weekend, two Irish boxers, David Joyce and Brendan Irvine, also booked their place at this summer's Games.

Irish Independent

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