Wednesday 13 November 2019

Father pays tribute as Darragh goes for second gold

Edel O'Connell

THE proud father of one of Ireland's gold-winning para-athletes has paid tribute to his determined son as he aims to double his haul today.

Darragh McDonald (18) from Gorey, Co Wexford, was just 14 when he first stood on a podium at a Paralympic Games -- after winning a silver medal in Beijing

And four years on, the swimmer has added gold, after winning the 400m freestyle event on Saturday.

The teenager is missing part of one arm below the elbow, and both his lower legs -- above the knee on one, and below it on the other.

His father, Derek McDonald, and his mother, Caroline, were never given an official diagnosis as to why their only child was born without some of his limbs.

They decided to introduce Darragh to swimming as a child as they felt he would feel less vulnerable in his shorts in the water.

Darragh later moved to the Asgard Swimming Club in Arklow, Co Wicklow. By the age of 13 he was swimming internationally.

Today he will compete in the 50m in London, and on Saturday it's the 100m.

Amazing

His weekly routine involves 20 to 24 hours in the pool, and he swims 50km to 60km per week.

"He touched the wall eight seconds clear of the field on Saturday, lowering his personal best by 10 seconds. It was amazing," said Mr McDonald.

Darragh's extended family and friends added to the deafening roar which filled the Olympic Park Aquatic Centre on Saturday as the teenager won gold.

Among them was his prothesist, Donna Fischer, who has been fitting the swimmer with new legs since he was a year old.

"There was about 30 odd of us -- all family and friends screaming him on," said Mr McDonald.

The proud dad said a piece of Darragh's medal belongs to those who have helped to get him to where he is.

"It's great for Darragh but it is also great for his club and his coaches and all of those people who put so much work into him," he said.

Mr McDonald attributes Ireland's remarkable success at the Paralympic Games in no small part to the support the athletes have received from the Irish Sports Council.

"In my opinion the Irish Paralympic team is doing so well because the Irish Sports Council has put a lot of money and resources into them."

Mr McDonald was last night preparing to fly out to London again to cheer on his son in his remaining competitions and then it is straight back to school for Darragh who is entering his Leaving Cert year. And, as if that was not enough, the inspirational swimmer has Rio firmly in his sights.

"He does want to try out for Rio . . . It's a massive commitment . . . We will support him whatever he wants to do," said Mr McDonald.

Irish Independent

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