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Golden boy Michael is presented with second medal ... by his mum

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Michael McKillop from Newtownabbey celebrates with mum Catherine after she presented him with his gold medal

Michael McKillop from Newtownabbey celebrates with mum Catherine after she presented him with his gold medal

Michael McKillop from Newtownabbey celebrates with mum Catherine after she presented him with his gold medal

HE didn't have a clue. As the favourite, Michael McKillop went into last night's 1500m final in the Paralympics knowing he had a good chance of bringing home gold. What he didn't know was that it would be his mother who would hang his second medal from these Games around his neck.

The 22-year-old from Newtownabbey, near Belfast, brought Ireland's medal tally to eight -- five gold, two silver and one bronze.

While his three sisters and extended family looked on from the crowd, it was his mother who presented him with his gold, in a surprise organised by sponsors P&G.

Catherine McKillop, herself a former under-17 All-Ireland 1500m champion, described her son as a "very, very determined" young man. Mr McKillop, who has cerebral palsy, won gold in the 800m final on Saturday night.

Overcome

"Through plenty of hard work and training, Michael has overcome a lot of the problems," she said. "Whether he is in able-bodied or in the Paralympics, Michael just wants to win."

While nervous at the prospect of presenting the medal to her son yesterday, she said it was all worth it as she saw the amount of work he puts into his sport.

After the race, a clearly emotional Mr McKillop said it was "unreal" to win and paid tribute to his parents, who he said had got him to where he was. His father Paddy is also his coach. "I owe it all to them," the champion said.

There were tears when the mother and son embraced during the medal ceremony in what is a rare occasion -- the last athlete to receive a medal like this was Zara Phillips from Britain's Princess Anne in the Olympics.

Earlier yesterday, Mr McKillop's roommate, best friend and fellow medal winner, Jason Smyth, revealed that something was lost in translation when he was presented with a gold for the 100m on Saturday by junior sports minister Michael Ring.

The Mayo man's accent appeared to be too much for the young Derry athlete. "He spoke that quickly I couldn't understand it," Mr Smyth said.

He and equestrian silver medalist Helen Kearney were praised yesterday for their achievements at the Paralympics.

The pair won two of the medals which Ireland secured over three days in what the chief executive of Paralympics Ireland Liam Harbison said was one of the country's great sporting achievements.

"It was fantastic evening in that stadium. There was so many people there and it seemed like the whole stadium was full of Irish people," he said.

At the event in the team's 'lodge' in the University of East London was Jason's fiancee Elise Jordan. The pair are due to marry in Utah, where Ms Jordan is from, on December 29. They met through Mr Smyth's uncle and both are members of the Mormon faith.

"It was fantastic, mostly I was so stressed out but I was glad to finally be able to just breathe for the first time in a few days," Ms Jordan said.

"Our faith is a huge part of who we are. What we believe keeps us together. It gives us guidance and I know it gives him a lot with his athletics."

Helen Kearney said the whole experience of winning silver on Sunday was a "blur".

Yesterday was a difficult day for Eilish Byrne, who narrowly missed a bronze medal in the equestrian individual freestyle test. However, she said: "To be fourth in the world is a magnificent feeling."

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Irish Independent