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Friday 19 January 2018

Race is on to find future Paralympians

Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

IF there was a medal for wheelies, these two boys would be decked in gold.

Oisin Putt (10) and Shane Barker (9) met their idol -- gold-medal winning handcyclist Mark Rohan -- in Dublin yesterday as the Paralympian encouraged other budding athletes to set their sights on Rio de Janeiro in four years time.

Oisin, from Ballycullen, and Shane, from Donabate, both in Dublin, are avid players of wheelchair basketball and rugby and while they might be a bit young for Rio, they are likely to be putting in an appearance at the 2020 Paralympics.

The boys were bitten by the Paralympics bug while in London for the Games in August and demonstrated a few of their moves to Mark in St Stephen's Green.

"I'm deciding on either handcycling, rugby, basketball and track chair racing," Oisin said of his choices.

Mark said that with the Paralympics now "more or less professional", anyone hoping to compete in Rio will have to have a sporting pedigree. However a lot can be achieved in four years, he pointed out.

"You have to have some sort of sporting background because it can take a while to learn how to train. You have to be able to compete at a high level," he added.

Paralympics Ireland yesterday launched its Talent Search event, supported by Cadbury, to seek out the star athletes of the future.

It will be holding an exhibition event at UCD's Sports Centre on October 13 with demonstrations in archery, equestrian, powerlifting, wheelchair tennis and judo among others.

Liam Harbison, chief executive of Paralympics Ireland, said the event was about starting the journey to Rio and beyond.

"I've no doubt there will be some people who come into UCD who will be going to Rio but just don't know it yet," he said.

"There will be 18 sports on show in UCD and people can see what sports they're eligible for.

"For example, if you're an amputee who plays football, you're not going to go to the Paralympics because football is for cerebral palsy or visual impairment, but you could channel your talents into say swimming or athletics.

Anyone wishing to attend the exhibition can register for free at

Irish Independent

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