Special Olympics: ‘It’s had a huge impact on her confidence’

The family of Ireland’s bronze medallist Lucy Dollard say the big occasion didn’t faze her

Maureen Byrne from Kilkenny with her granddaughter Lucy Dollard. Photograph: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Maureen Byrne from Kilkenny with her granddaughter Lucy Dollard. Photograph: Matt Browne/Sportsfile


Special Olympics athlete Lucy Dollard (25) from Kilkenny takes to the track on Monday for the 100m sprint at the World Games in Abu Dhabi.

Although Lucy’s grandmother Maureen Byrne (76) could not travel to the United Arab Emirates with the rest of the family, she went above and beyond in her fundraising efforts, literally. Ms Byrne took part in a zipwire challenge last month to help raise more than €1,000 for Special Olympics Ireland.

This involved being hoisted 35m above ground and travelling over two lakes and woodland. “It was a brilliant feeling but I suppose I’m a bit of a daredevil anyway,” Ms Byrne said. “It was exhilarating. You’re just floating along.”

Lucy began swimming with the Kilkenny Special Olympics club eight years ago, where she also took up athletics and kayaking. This is the first time she is representing Ireland in athletics at the World Games and has already picked up a bronze medal in mini javelin.

“Apparently Lucy is having a ball. She’s having a great time. It is Lucy’s first time being away for as long as that. It was a bit daunting for all the family but she’s getting on brilliantly,” Ms Byrne said.

“I am so proud. We are all going to be up at the airport when they get back on March 22nd with our jerseys and flags.”

Bronze medal

Ms Byrne travelled to Dublin Airport to bid farewell to Lucy and the 90 other Irish athletes when they departed for Abu Dhabi almost two weeks ago.

“It was just an experience I will never forget, the happiness of that group of people and the joy and the camaraderie. Then you have all the people giving up their time – they just are so fantastic,” she added.

Lucy’s mother, Maria Dollard, said it was an “unbelievable feeling” seeing her daughter win a bronze medal over the weekend.

“She was so measured and calm throwing. The big occasion didn’t seem to faze her,” she said.

Maria said she and her husband never realised their daughter was so sporty until she became involved with Special Olympics Ireland.

“She just loves all kind of sport and all kind of activity. I guess we hadn’t realised that until she actually started to participate,” she said.

“She never said no to Special Olympics training. She never resisted doing it. She really loves it. It’s a huge part of her life now.

“It’s had a huge impact on her in terms of her confidence in herself. She’s quite fit and she’s very proud of that and wants to be healthy.”