Team Ulster athletes are travelling back to Ulster with a haul over 250 medals from the 2018 Special Olympics Ireland Games in Dublin.
Some 273 local Ulster athletes competed in the Special Olympics Ireland Games between Friday 15th and Sunday 17th June. A total of 1600 athletes from the four corners of Ireland took part in the Games, which are one of the largest and most prestigious sporting events to take place in Ireland in 2018.
Team Ulster athletes competed in 13 sports and Motor Activities Training, including Athletics, Aquatics, Badminton, Basketball, Bocce, Bowling, Equestrian, Football, Golf, Gymnastics, Kayaking, Pitch & Putt and Table Tennis.
At last count, Team Ulster had clinched over 250 medals at the Games, with final tallies still being updated after a number of late finals on Sunday (17th June). A total of 2,144 medals were awarded over the weekend: 959 gold, 667 silver and 518 bronze.
On Saturday, Team Ulster’s gymnastics squad won 15 gold, six silver and seven bronze medals in artistic gymnastics events. Amongst the winners was Patrick Quinlivan, 36, from Letterkenny, Donegal, who claimed four gold medals; 13-year-old Sophie Carson from Donaghadee, Co. Down, who claimed three bronze medals in her Ireland Games debut; and Jordan Kerr, 23 from Belfast, who won three gold and one silver medal.
On Sunday, there was further medal success in rhythmic gymnastics, with Team Ulster’s youngest athlete, Lucia Carrigan, 10 from Belfast claimed two gold and one silver medal, while teammate, Anna Joudah, 15 from Belfast won one gold and two bronze medals.
Commenting after his win, Team Ulster gymnast, Jordan Kerr, who competed in floor, vault, rings, and parallel bars, said: “The Games have gone very well and I’m more than delighted with my medals. I’m very pleased for everyone – the whole team have been brilliant and they all did their best. I had to train very hard and training can be quite tense but I enjoy it. It’s hard work but I enjoy it; gymnastics is a great sport to be involved in and it’s fantastic to represent Team Ulster.”
Head gymnastics coach, Anthony Monaghan said: “It has been a fantastic Games – the atmosphere is amazing, the crowd have been really supportive, which really helped lift the gymnasts. To walk away with these results makes all the hard work in the run up to it worth it. Words can’t describe how proud I am of everyone; our gymnasts, coaches, families and supporters – everyone had done Ulster proud!”
There were huge success for Team Ulster in the pool, as aquatics athletes secured 18 gold medal, seven silver and seven bronze on day two, and in athletics with 21 gold, 15 silver and 11 bronze secured on Saturday.
The Team Ulster badminton squad also had an excellent Games, with all four athletes claiming gold medals throughout the weekend. The squad included up and coming stars, Sarah-Louise Rea (19), Ben Hayward (18) and Aaron Fitzpatrick (21) from Lisburn and Kealan Woods (12) from Cavan.
Willie McMillan, badminton head coach, Team Ulster said: “The guys have trained very hard and were well up for the challenge; three of the team play mainstream badminton and I am delighted with the standard of all of the team’s badminton this weekend and I am so proud of their achievements. To represent their province is incredible. There has been a huge amount of support here in Dublin, the parents and families have been fantastic and Team Ulster have made a big impression – and a lot of noise – this weekend.”
Selected athletes from these Games will go on to represent Team Ireland at the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi.
The 2018 Games were supported by 600 coaches and official delegates and 2,500 volunteers, with thousands of spectators turning out to cheer on athletes in venues across the city.
Special Olympics Ireland is a year-round sports training and competition programme for people with an intellectual disability. The benefits of participation in Special Olympics extend beyond the physical benefits of sport; it’s about team spirit, friendships and fun; it’s about a feeling of belonging and a sense of being part of a community. Special Olympics changes lives in so many different ways, enabling people with an intellectual disability to achieve and win not only in sport but in life too.
The public can follow further news and updates from the 2018 Special Olympics Ireland Games on Twitter, @SO_Ulster and @SOIreland using the hashtag, #IrelandGames. Further updates and highlights from the Games will be posted on the Special Olympics Ulster Facebook page, Facebook.com/SpecialOlympicsUlster
For further information about Special Olympics Ulster and the Special Olympics Ireland programme, visit www.specialolympics.ie