Thursday 29 September 2016

Twomey out to finish his odyssey with another medal

Barry Lennon

Published 12/09/2016 | 02:30

Twomey will not be able to sail at the next Games as the sport has been dropped for Tokyo. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Twomey will not be able to sail at the next Games as the sport has been dropped for Tokyo. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Sailor John Twomey takes to the water in the three-person sonar today, beginning an end to a chapter which has seen him compete in 11 Paralympic Games.

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The 61-year-old, who represented Ireland in table tennis, discus and sailing, has been at more Games than any other Paralympian or Olympian.

He got his involvement off to a flyer, collecting table tennis silver in Toronto 1976.

The Cork man claimed bronze throwing the discus in England 1984 and gold in the same event at Seoul four years later before retiring from the sport in 1996.

"I missed out on a medal by 2cm in Barcelona and in Atlanta I finished fifth. I was going backwards so I said it's time to hang up the boots," he recalls.

"I was back again because I was asked to enter for the 2000 Games in sailing, but Rio is the end, I tell ya. I'll leave it up to the young fellas now."

His illustrious career ensured he was chosen as Ireland's flag bearer during last week's opening ceremony.

"It was a great honour for me and my family," he says.

Twomey's competitive streak contributed to the accident which saw him end up in a wheelchair at 14. He struck a van on a dual carriageway while competing in a cycling race outside of Cork city.

"I didn't see it in the heat of the race. I saw the van and I thought it was moving. I hit it a fair auld thump, I broke my back and my neck. That quietened me down for a while."

Twomey will not be able to sail at the next Games as the sport has been dropped for Tokyo. He believes the sport needs to return to the Paralympics after the dispute over the numbers competing cost sailing its place.

"It's the ultimate goal to get there," he says.

Twomey begins the six-day event with Dubliner Austin O'Carroll and Kerry's Ian Costelloe at 5.30pm today.

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