Presidential praise for triumphant paralympians

The triumphant Irish Paralympic team was today praised for winning four medals at a special reception with President Mary McAleese.

The triumphant Irish Paralympic team was today praised for winning four medals at a special reception with President Mary McAleese.

Some 41 athletes who battled against thousands of competitors at the games in Athens were invited to the celebrations after winning three silver medals and one bronze.

President McAleese hosted the official reception at Áras an Uachtaráin in Phoenix Park to mark the team’s success at last month’s Paralympic Games for people with physical disabilities.

Mayo’s Conal McNamara won a silver medal in the 400m event, Dublin swimmer David Malone, won silver in the 100m backstroke, John McCarthy from Cork came second in the discus, and Clare’s Derek Malone won a bronze in the 800m.

Meath’s Lisa O’Callaghan also set a world record in the javelin at the Paralympics, despite being nudged out of the medal places by the competition’s points system.

Liam Harbison, Paralympic technical director, said it was a fitting tribute to mark the team’s success.

“It’s only right and proper that it is noted at the highest levels,” Mr Harbison said.

“We can’t get any higher than the President and it gives the athletes the respect they deserve.”

The team was also due to meet Sports Minister John O’Donoghue later at Croke Park.

The Paralympic team received €500,000 from the Irish Sports Council, which allowed them to bring athletes to training camps around the country and twice to Cyprus before the games.

The Paralympic Council said it would put forward a four-year plan next January for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 to keep up with the phenomenal rise in standards at the games.

“It was a successful games from the point of view that the standards have risen incredibly in comparison to four years ago,” Mr Harbison said.

“In Sydney we may have had more medals but the competition was much harder this time round.”

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