Team Ireland brings medal haul back from Winter Special Olympics

26-strong Team Ireland arrive triumphant into Dublin airport

Olympic medal winners, in such sports as floor football and skiing, were among a 26-strong Team Ireland arriving triumphant into Dublin airport on Saturday.

With a haul of eight medals - two gold, three silver, and, three bronze - the jubilant athletes had been competing in the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria. They also brought home participation ribbons for fourth and fifth places.

Youngest team member, Caolan McConville (13) from Co Antrim, brought home two medals - silver for the intermediate giant slalom in skiing, and bronze in the intermediate slalom.

Lorraine Whelan (36) from Co Wicklow won gold in the intermediate slalom and silver in the intermediate slalom.

The two Irish floorball teams fourth and fifth in their divisions.

There were personal bests or medals for each of Ireland's six alpine skiers on the slopes of Schladming. Niall Flynn (30) from Dublin took three and a half seconds off his best time, while Laoise Kenny (16) from Dublin took fourth in both the novice slalom and giant slalom. Sean McCartan (16) from Co. Armagh in won gold in the slalom event and bronze in the giant slalom.

Chief executive of Special Olympics Ireland, Matt English said Team Ireland's achievements were only possible with the support of volunteers, supporters and sponsors both at home and abroad.

“A huge amount of work and resources go into competing at this level and planning for Austria 2017 started immediately after our last Winter Games in Korea four years ago. A huge thanks must go firstly to the coaches and volunteers who were part of our 38 person delegation, but there were a further 90 volunteers who raised funds to come out and be part of this experience.

"Our mission to give our athletes access to the very best sporting facilities and competitions would not be possible without our sponsors so huge thanks must go to Aer Lingus, eir and Gala Retail at these Games."

Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty, paying tribute to all involved in the games said: "It was fantastic to see Team Ireland doing so well in Austria over the last week or so, continuing the great legacy of Irish involvement in the Special Olympics movement.

“I would sincerely like to thank volunteers and families who helped the team with the logistics and organisation. The Special Olympics movement is a great example of good citizenship. I would like particularly to congratulate all the athletes involved. Their training and dedication paid off and Team Ireland returned with a fine medal haul.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times