Monday 23 April 2018

Presidential salute for Paralympians who made leap to iconic status

Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

CHILDREN are clamouring for their autographs, adults stop them on the street and now the President is honouring them.

Life for Ireland's most successful Paralympian team is certainly sweet.

Six weeks on from the London Games and many have already returned to their rigorous training regimes as they eye up world and European competitions -- and, of course, Rio in 2016.

However, they took a welcome break to call into President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina at the Aras.

Training can often be a lonely pursuit. But now they are officially celebrities in their hometowns and beyond.

"To represent your nation at such a high level and to be recognised for that is amazing," said shot-putter Nadine Lattimore, of Baldoyle, Dublin.

Catherine O'Neill is in demand in schools in her home town of New Ross, Co Wexford, where the children can't wait to get their hands on her silver medal for discus.

"It was my third Paralympics but my first Paralympic medal," she said.

Meanwhile, Helen Kearney (23), from Dunlavin in Co Wicklow, was buckling under the weight of her medal haul -- one silver and two bronze for equestrian events.

A number of medal winners were missing from the reception -- teenage swimmers Bethany Firth and Darragh McDonald were both back in school, while runner Jason Smyth was training in the US.

Irish Independent

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