Siblings make a splash in swimming contests
The Cooke family from Cahirlistrane in Galway have been competing in the Community Games for only the last six years, but already their reputation precedes them as the three siblings have accumulated an impressive medal haul in the swimming pool.
Uiseann, Olwyn and Aonghus - all named after characters in Irish folklore tales - added two gold medals to their collection this year but parents John and Finola insist that the essence of the Community Games is about participation.
"They started swimming in a local club in Tuam, which is run on a voluntary basis. It's a fantastic club with fantastic coaches," says their father John.
"It's a huge honour to swim for your community first," claims Finola, "and then to swim for your county. A lot of parishes lost their place in Community Games because it's largely voluntary but they are trying to get reinstated, which is great."
"The Community Games would be the highlight for the children in the summer and we think it's such a wonderful competition for them."
Olwyn was first to secure a medal for the Cookes in this year's Games when she won gold in the U14 breaststroke on Saturday, after prevailing in each of her three heats in first place. The final placings would indicate that she was dominant in the water, but mother Finola observed that it was "a real battle in the end".
Aonghus also collected a gold medal in the U12 50m backstroke while 14-year-old Uiseann, who is the oldest of the Cooke children, was unlucky not to finish in a podium position in the U16 Butterfly event.
This is his first year not to win a medal at the games but in previous years, he has picked up two gold medals, two silver medals and a bronze.
"The games are so well organised since Swim Ireland got involved," says John.
"There's been a lot changes [in swimming at Community Games] with regards to the strokes and how the times are measured. There was a time when someone would just point out the winner but now it's so professional and the times are properly recorded," he adds.
John volunteered to assist in recording times at the swimming events in this year's Community Games and Finola notes that offering your services towards the running of the Community Games is key to its annual success.
"Any opportunity to give back, you take it. That's really the whole spirit of the Community Games. It's great to win but it's really about contributing and giving back to the community.
"It brings communities together so that children can compete from the parish and then go on to represent your county. Communities are the most important aspect of it all," John concludes.
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