Saturday 26 May 2018

'After 11 Games, this is definitely my swansong,' says flagbearer John

John Twomey carries the flag at the opening ceremony. Photo: Sportsfile
John Twomey carries the flag at the opening ceremony. Photo: Sportsfile
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

John Twomey has represented Ireland in 11 Paralympic Games, but the highlight of his illustrious career was leading the Irish team out at the Rio opening ceremony.

The 61-year-old has taken part in Paralympic Games around the world for the past 44 years.

But despite winning a gold and bronze medal in discus throwing before taking up sailing in the Sydney Games, the Cork man insists this will be his last outing for Ireland.

"It's time to move over for the youngsters. This is definitely my swan song," he said.

John, who was left paralysed in a cycling accident when he was just 14, has enjoyed a Paralympic career spanning back to the Toronto Games in 1976.

Despite retiring from the discus in 1996, John was enticed back to the Sydney Games in 2000 when sailing was introduced. "I had been sailing since my accident so the lads persuaded me to come back," he said.

He will compete in 11 races between Monday and Saturday in the hopes of securing one final medal. And after securing a bronze medal in the Sailing World Cup last year, he is in with a chance of winning his third Paralympic medal.

While his wife Mary and two daughters have been on hand to support him at previous Games, they will be cheering him on from their Kinsale home on this occasion.

He urged any young person facing a similar injury to focus on sport.

"Even if they don't take it up to international level, it's a great way to stay fit and strong. It's a great way of life," he said.

Irish Independent

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