Irish athletes among the medals on opening day of competition at Special Olympics

Team Irelands Gary McEnroe, a member of St John of God Menni Services, from Tallaght, Dublin, with his Bronze Medal - 25M Backstroke, at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center. Special Olympics World Summer Games, Los Angeles, California, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

As the first day of competition got under way at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles (LA2015) yesterday, Team Ireland are blazing a trail, winning three medals – one silver and two bronze with a host of personal bests achieved.

Preliminary divisioning heats are continuing in the 12 sports in which Team Ireland are competing in.

Team Ireland swimmer, Sean Coleman, aged 22 from Youghal, Co. Cork (Cork Special Olympics Swimming Club) won a silver medal in the 25m backstroke; Gary McEnroe, aged 20 from Tallaght, Dublin (St John of God Menni Services) bagged a bronze medal in the 25m backstroke and Sarah Jane Johnston, aged 35 from Lurgan, Co. Armagh (Ripples Special Olympics Club) won a bronze medal in the 100m backstroke.

The aquatics action is taking place at the University of Southern California and there was a large Irish crowd on hand to support Team Ireland.

Seven Personal Bests were also achieved by Team Ireland athletes in day one preliminary heats in athletics and aquatics. There is a strong contingent of Irish supporters at the World Games– with more than 300 family members and friends cheering on Team Ireland.

The Games officially got underway at a star-studded Opening Ceremony at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics Games. First Lady Michelle Obama gave an impassioned speech about the importance of the global Special Olympics programme and the benefits it offers to athletes with intellectual disabilities.

Commenting on Team Ireland’s first day at LA2015, Matt English, CEO Special Olympics Ireland said: “Team Ireland is off to a great start at the World Games. We had some fantastic results in the pool on Sunday and there has also been an array of personal bests as we progress through the preliminary phase of divisioning.

"We are very hopeful for a successful Games and are looking forward to the coming days of competition.”

The World Games run until August 2nd 2015. Team Ireland will compete in 12 different Olympic style sports. Their selection comes after four years of training and competition.

A 40-strong coaching and management team are supporting the athletes in Los Angeles, with 155 Team Ireland volunteers working at the Games. Over 300 family members have also made the trip to the World Games to support Team Ireland athletes.