Friday 22 November 2019

Irish athletes put party on hold as they gear up for chance of lifetime

Shane Hickey in London

EVEN the lure of the opening ceremony was not enough to break their concentration.

A number of Ireland's Paralympians decided to forego the energy and glitz of last night's proceedings in favour of preparation for their events over the first few days of the Games, which start proper this morning.

But judging by the support in the team's 'lodge' at a ceremony for them last night, there was no lack of colour to make up the numbers in Olympic Park.

Paralympics Ireland hosted a welcome event in the University of East London last night for the athletes as well as their friends and families.

Among the competitors who broke from the Olympic Village were Catherine Walsh, entering her sixth Games, and Fran Meehan, world champion tandem cyclists who will race tomorrow morning.

"We are competing first thing on Friday morning so we are not going to the opening ceremony and are going to lay low. We thought we would give it a miss and concentrate," Ms Walsh said.

Katie-George Dunlevy, also a cyclist, described the Olympic village as buzzing where "everyone is in a positive mood".

Some 150 people attended last night's event, including the Irish ambassador to the UK Bobby McDonagh, and Pat Hickey of the Olympic Council of Ireland.

Today will be the first day of competition in the 11-day Games following last night's opening ceremony.

Bruce Wardrop, a physiologist working with the team, said athletes who were competing close to the opening ceremony were advised not to go so they could concentrate on their performance.

Sports Minister Leo Varadkar arrived in London yesterday to represent the Government at the opening ceremony.

Irish Independent

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