Veteran Irish Paralympian John Twomey from Kinsale Yacht Club will bow out from his long career as the flag bearer for Team Ireland at Rio 2016 in September.
His 11th appearance will be his last as sailing was controversially dropped from the Tokyo games before World Sailing became involved to have the sport reinstated for 2024 by which time the Cork sailor acknowledges he will have moved on.
“It’s a great honour for me, the team that I sail with and my family too. It’s a nice gesture that I really appreciate it from Denis Toomey at Paralympics Ireland,” Twomey told the Irish Examiner last night.
Luckily the opening ceremony is three days before the first competition unlike Athens and Beijing where he was unable to take part as it would be a distraction from racing the following day.
“In fact this will enhance our preparations as it’s great for team morale,” he said.
Nevertheless, while 2016 will be his last games, Twomey fully intends continuing to campaign both on the Irish sailing scene where he has a long track record and also overseas in the Sonar class that is currently used for the Paralympics.
“I’m going to leave it to the young lads,” said Twomey (61). “Mind you, I said that after the Atlanta Olympics in ’96 when I threw discus for the last time.”
Sailing has had a long involvement with disability sport in Ireland, centred at Kinsale YC but also at other venues in Cork and Dublin and Twomey is undoubtedly the figurehead known throughout the country.
“As someone who has been involved in paralympics and in sailing for so long, there is a certain onus on me to give back and I certainly intend doing that. I will be there to help and advise and keep some involvement in the administration side.”
A former Kinsale YC Commodore, he competed in the International Dragon class in a specially adapted boat while he also won an IRC national championship for Class 3 where he intends competing again from next year.
However, an equipment review for whenever sailing is readmitted to the Paralympic Games is inevitable as it is for most classes so he isn’t expecting the Sonar to remain in the games even if he was available to compete in it.
Once their Sonar is packed-up and shipped out to Brazil, crewmates Ian Costello from Killorglin and Tralee-based Dublin doctor Austin O’Carroll will return to Rio in the last week of August and will begin final practice.
“It’s a beautiful location and spectacular backdrop with the city and mountains,” said Twomey. “It’ll be super experience and a great honour to carry the Irish flag out into the stadium.”
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