Old friendships are renewed at Special Olympic Games

Athletes come to the Special Olympics Ireland to compete and have fun. And 100 will win places on Team Ireland for the world games in Los Angeles next year.

Old friendships are renewed at Special Olympic Games

One games veteran, Paula Carroll, is in Limerick this weekend, renewing old friendships forged as they blazed the trail for athletes with disabilities.

Paula, from Kilmore West in Dublin, has, by her own account, won “tons” of medals, mostly in gymnastics.

She said: “My last games were Belfast in 2008. I had won five gold at the World games in North Carolina in 1999.”

She is now engaged in the Special Olympics Alps programme established for retired Special Olympics athletes.

Her mentor, Ann Ford, said: “For Paula and her friends the games gives them a great opportunity to meet up. She competed in her first games when she was eight.”

Gabrielle Hannon, Tullamore, Co Offaly, on her way to winning her 50m sprint heat

This has been an exceptionally busy year for Paula. Ann explained: “She had her 40th birthday and some of her former athlete friends also had their 40th. So there were a lot of parties.”

As part of the Alps programme, participants are given various challenges for which, gold, silver, and bronze pins are awarded.

Paula is now working towards her gold Alps Pin, having already been awarded silver and bronze.

The weather yesterday posed an challenge at the medical centre. Maeve Johnston, graduating as a physiotherapist from Trinity College, this month, said: “We have lots of athletes coming in with sore eyes caused by sun cream running down their foreheads with perspiration. We have been using loads of tissues and wipes.”

Team Leinster athlete Dylan Dwyer, 11, from Shinrone, Co Offaly, keeps cool

Maeve, 23, who comes from Clonmel, said after the games her big mission will be job-hunting.

She said: “Many physiotherapists are going to New Zealand, Singapore, and the UK. Being a volunteer at the games gives you a great insight into people with disabilities.”

Jessica Rudd from Inistioge, Co Kilkenny, had the task of keeping the outside world in touch with the games. A graduate in equine science, she said: “I am going around taking pictures posting them on Twitter.”

To join the games volunteer corps, Jessica had to get leave from her summer job at her partner’s restaurant, Circle of Friends in Kilkenny. “I would like to work in the horse breeding industry,” she said.

Team Munster’s Robbie Howard, Rathcormac, Co Cork, in the Horizontal Bar heats

Eileen Manning from New Ross was with her daughter, Maria, 23, who was competing in the 50m and 25m track events.

She said: “Maria was so excited that she started to wave to everybody as she ran.”

Hundreds of people posted greetings on the large message board.

Rugby pundit Alan Quinlan was the first with “Best wishes and good luck to all the athletes”.

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