Three Irish swimmers claim Ireland's first medals at Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles

Team Ireland’s Donal O’Mahoney, a member of Sunbeam House Services, from Kilcoole, Co Wicklow, during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. Photo: Ray McManus / Sportsfile

By Kevin Doyle in Los Angeles

THREE Irish swimmers have claimed the country’s first medals at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles.

The Uytengsu Aquatics Centre was a sea of green on a triumphant Day One of the Games for Sean Coleman, Gary McEnroe and Sarah Jane Johnston who between them collected a silver and two bronze medals.

Coleman (22) from Youghal in Cork took silver in the 25 metre backstroke race where he faced stiff competition from the Netherlands and Ivory Coast.

He spent most of the race in third place before just making into second in the final few metres.

Earlier in the day Sarah Jane Johnston (35) from Lurgan, Co Armagh was the first Irish athlete to claim a medal when she finished third in the 100 metre backstroke.

And Gary McEnroe (24) from Tallaght in Dublin completed the trio of medals in his 25 metre backstroke competition.

Up to 300 Irish spectators at the venue in the University of Southern California far outnumbered visitors from any other country.

Head Aquatics Coach with Team Ireland Jenny Hughes told that they only ever hoped for the three athletes “to swim their hearts out”.

“The medals are a bonus,” she said.

Commenting on the huge Irish crowd who cheered on the athletes the Dublin volunteer said: “We are possibly the loudest, noisiest delegation that there is at the Games.”

It was the first time at the Games for all three who will compete together later in the week as part of a relay team.

Several other athletes recorded personal bests on a day when the 11-a-side soccer team who have undergone coaching from LA Galaxy and Ireland star Robbie Keane drew nil-all with Great Britain.

Eighty-eight Irish athletes are taking part in 13 different sports over the course of nine days.

Reacting to a medal haul on the first day of competition,  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 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 2.