Medal-laden Team Ireland returned home to a heroes’ welcome yesterday following a spectacular performance at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles.
The jubilant athletes brought home 82 medals: 26 gold, 28 silver, 28 bronze, as well as 41 placement ribbons.
The 88 athletes received a rapturous welcome from hundreds of family members, friends, and supporters when they arrived at Dublin Airport.
Family and friends greet Team Ireland on their return to Dublin from the games in Los Angeles.
Medals were claimed in all 12 sports featuring Irish athletes, with 31 personal best performances achieved by Team Ireland members.
The team was led into the arrivals hall by Paschal Donohoe, the transport and sports minister, Special Olympics chief executive Matt English and the Aer Lingus crew who flew them home.
They arrived just after 11am and were loudly cheered by supporters who sang songs, shook banners, and waved Tricolours.
Left to right: Medalists John Rowan, bowling, Laura Reynolds, basketball, and Leo O’Brien, golf, all from Wicklow. Picture: Inpho/Cathal Noonan
Parents, almost bursting with pride and joy, rushed forward to be reunited with sons and daughters.
Among the athletes was Rachel Ryan of Templemore, Co Tipperary who took gold in the 400m run and silver as part of the 4x100m relay.
She was delighted that well-wishers at the airport had cheered just as loudly as those who saw her cross the finish line to take a gold medal.
Gerard, 2nd left, and Fidelma Coleman, right, join their son Sean Coleman, from Youghal, Co Cork, as he returns triumphantly. Picture: Ray McManus / Sportsfile
Another team member weighed down with medals was John Deevy from Waterford. He had a gold and two bronze medals that he won in equestrian events draped around his neck.
Irish Sports Council chief executive John Treacy said Team Ireland had brought great joy to their families and communities.
Ciara Donaldson with Caoimhe Savage (16 weeks) and Special Olympic athlete Dearbhail Savage, all from Clady, Co Armagh. Picture: Collins
While the games were over, there was a lot of celebration left to do, said Mr Treacy. Michael Ring, the junior sports minister, said the athletes had proved to be excellent ambassadors for Ireland.
A 40-strong coaching and management team supported the athletes in Los Angeles together with 155 volunteers. More than 300 family members had made the trip to cheer them on.
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