Saturday 10 December 2016

Emotional opening ceremony as Ireland flag-bearer John takes his final bow

Published 08/09/2016 | 02:30

The Ireland team are led out by flag bearer John Twomey during the opening ceremony
of the Paralympic Games at the Maracana, Brazil. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire
The Ireland team are led out by flag bearer John Twomey during the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games at the Maracana, Brazil. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire

The opening ceremony for the Rio Paralympics was especially poignant for Irish flag-bearer John Twomey.

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At 61, he's not only the oldest member of the 48-strong Team Ireland, but this year will be the last Paralympics for the retired accountant from Cork.

John Twomey. Photo: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE
John Twomey. Photo: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

As he proudly hoisted the Tricolour in the Maracanã Stadium in Rio, it marked the beginning of the end of his Paralympic sailing career after taking part in 11 consecutive Games since 1976.

Meanwhile, other members of the Irish squad competing in a total of ten sports disciplines were thrilled to take part in the games despite the scandals, financial troubles and other issues plaguing both the Olympic and Paralympic games. "They're all in great form," Paralympics Ireland spokesman John Fulham said.

The athletes have all settled into their temporary digs at the Olympic village and remain focused on bringing home eight medals, which Ireland's chef de mission Denis Toomey predicts will be a conservative haul.

"The banter between them is very relaxed," Mr Fulham said of the athletes who will begin competition today.

Damien Vereker and his pilot Sean Hahessy pose after a training session in the Velodrome. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Damien Vereker and his pilot Sean Hahessy pose after a training session in the Velodrome. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

"There's a lot of positive talk. We're all aware of financial problems with the Rio organisers, but they haven't been impacted and I have not heard any complaints."

Meanwhile, more than 1.6 million tickets have been sold for the games and organisers were expecting a lot of "razzmatazz" in last night's gala ceremony.

A supporter at the Maracanã Stadium ahead of the Paralympics opening ceremony. Photo by Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
A supporter at the Maracanã Stadium ahead of the Paralympics opening ceremony. Photo by Paul Mohan/Sportsfile

Irish Independent

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