American Dream coming true as Team Ireland's medal count soars
The American dream is coming true for dozens of Irish athletes at the Special Olympics, with the medal count now standing at 33.
Team Ireland is having one of its best World Games ever, with medals in six different disciplines and the possibility of plenty more in the final two days of competition.
The 88 representatives received encouragement from Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who sent a message saying they had represented the country "with pride and distinction".
Mr Kenny said that he had watched clips of the opening ceremony and had seen the athletes with Colin Farrell and Claudine Keane, but he told the athletes "you were the real superstars on the night".
Eleven more medals were won yesterday - in equestrian, kayaking, athletics, bocce, bowling and table tennis.
Much of the attention was on Long Beach, where three Irish women went head-to-head in the 500 metre kayak final.
While the competition was intense - resulting in a silver, bronze and fifth place for Ireland - there were hugs and cheers all round afterwards.
An athlete from Macau won, but Nuala Browne (39) from Tyrone was a close second, followed by Rita Quirke (54) from Kildare in third. And Nicola Higgins (34) from Dublin was awarded a merit ribbon for her fifth place finish.
Nicola's sister Mary Sheehan said: "I was so excited watching the race. It was great seeing the other two girls get medals for Ireland. "When Nicola was a young child she always wanted to come to America. So when she got picked for the Special Olympics here it was a dream come true for her. She's living her dream coming over to America."
Kayak coach Angelina Foley from Rathmore, Co Kerry said: "We're so proud of all the kayakers. They've just tried their very best and put so much effort into it."
Her sister Andella Hayden said it had been "an enormous journey" for Rita and her "heart was thumping with joy" as she rowed towards bronze.
In equestrian, Team Ireland was led by 37-year-old Elizabeth Mair from Rathfarnham, Dublin who collected her second gold of the Games. John Deevy (38) from Kilmeadan, Waterford took gold in the dressage.
On the athletics track, Timothy Morahan from Rathmines in Dublin claimed a bronze medal in the 800m, while 36-year-old Lisa O'Brien from Charleville in Cork secured two bonze medals in the 50m and 25m sprints. In bowling, Ruth Geerah (35) from Mullingar, Co Westmeath, clinched gold in her singles match.
And there were emotional scenes when Anne Hoey (51) from Co Louth won gold in her bocce match. It marked a clean sweep for Ireland in that sport after Peter Malynn won gold earlier in the week.
Liam Foley (17) from Enfield, Co Meath had Ireland's first success in badminton, taking a bronze.
As the Games enter the final two days there are high hopes for the soccer and basketball teams.