Team leaves for London Paralympics

Thu, Aug 16, 2012, 01:00

The Irish Paralympics team left Dublin in good spirits this morning on their way via Portugal to the London Paralympics next week.

All 49 members of the team plus a back up team of 47 coaches and helpers left on a flight for Lisbon for a week-long training camp in Coimbra.

Many had a late night at the Bewleys Dublin Airport hotel where 1,000 friends and supporters turned up for the farewell at which The Sawdoctors played.

The camp is being held to focus the mind of competitors on the Paralympics which start on Wednesday, August 29th with the opening ceremony.

Paralympics Ireland chief executive Liam Harbison said they were “quietly confident” that they can make the goals of the Irish Sports Council which is to at least equal the record in Beijing of getting five medals including three golds. The ISC wants the medals to be go over four sports.

He said they were looking strong in athletics, where sprinter Jason Smyth and middle-distance runner Michael McKillip are both defending their Paralympics titles, cycling and swimming, but the fourth sport which will yield a medal could be more difficult though there are possibilities in boccia, a sport similar to bowls for severely disabled people, and in equestrian.

The team boosts five world champions in eight disciplines. There are no less than four or five Irish medal prospects on “Super Saturday” which is Saturday 1st where both Smyth and McKillip can expect to defend their titles.

One of those with a chance of a medal is hand cyclist Mark Rowan (31) who is a former Westmeath under-age footballer. He was left in a wheelchair after a motorcycle accident when he was 20 in 2001.

He was a champion on the World Handcycling Champions in 2010 and won the World Paracycling Cup (Time Trial) in 2012. He is in action on Wednesday and Friday next week.

He expects 50 friends and family to come on cheer him on. “They’re coming from the football team, the cycling club and from home. I’m looking forward to seeing them all kitted out”.

The team arrive into the Olympic Village on August 25th. Competition starts five days later.