Friday 19 January 2018

Champs and students set to race for Ireland in Paralympics

Runner Jason Smyth at the announcement in Dublin yesterday of the Irish team heading to Rio Photo: Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
Runner Jason Smyth at the announcement in Dublin yesterday of the Irish team heading to Rio Photo: Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
Orla Comerford

Jane O'Faherty

The Usain Bolt of Paralympics, a Leaving Cert student and an all-new Green Army are among the team representing Ireland at this year's Paralympics.

The 44-strong team will compete in athletics, swimming, cycling, shooting, canoeing, football, sailing, table tennis, among several other sports.

Paralympic champion Jason Smyth is hoping to better his track record, which includes two double-gold wins at London and Beijing.

Jason's success in London earned him the coveted title of the world's fastest Paralympic runner.

Paralympian Orla Comerford
Paralympian Orla Comerford

"I was in Beijing where I won double gold and thought: 'How do you step up from that?'" said the 29-year-old Derryman. "But London was a step up from that."

While many of his relatives made the trip to London last time, Jason reckons they might not get the chance to be there this time around.

"We had a little girl just about eight months ago, so life has changed quite a lot," he said. "It's not ideal for her - it's just too far away."

Jason also encouraged all aspiring sporting stars to believe in themselves if they wanted to achieve success.

Paralympic athlete Ellen Keane Photo by Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
Paralympic athlete Ellen Keane Photo by Paul Mohan/Sportsfile

"I don't see myself as any better or any different than any other athlete who has made the team or any athlete who is looking to achieve successful things," he said.

"It's just believing that you can achieve what you want to achieve, and actually working and doing as much as you can to make it happen," he continued.

Fellow athlete Orla Comerford, who is fresh from finishing secondary school and her Leaving Cert, will compete in the 100 metre sprint in Rio.

Asked about the demanding nature of both the Leaving Cert and gruelling training, the visually impaired student said it had been "busy, but do-able".

"I'd get up and go to the gym in the mornings, and of course there would be training after school," said the 18-year-old Dubliner. "I think hard work in training really translates into hard work in school, so hopefully the hard work will pay off."

Orla, who hopes to study at the National College of Art and Design next year, said she was "so proud" to be selected for the Paralympics.

"It's such an amazing Irish team - they've done so fantastically at all the Paralympic Games," she said. "It's such an honour. I never expected to be here."

Meanwhile, the 14 members of Ireland's Cerebral Palsy football team are aiming for the same success as their Euro 2016 heroes.

Dillon Sheridan from Ballyfermot and Carl McKee from Swords said Ireland's 11th-hour goal against Italy would serve as inspiration for the close-knit group.

"That's what can happen when we all believe," said Dillon (19). Meanwhile, Carl (18) said the win over Italy was a "shock". "No one expected us to get out of the group," he said. "That's what we're looking to achieve when we're (in Rio)."

"We didn't qualify for the Games in London, so we want to go over and make a name for ourselves," he added. "We're going to be the underdogs - just like the Irish team were in the Euros."

The first group of athletes departs for Brazil on August 23, and the Games will run from September 8 to 18.

Irish Independent

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