Five medals minimum the target for Irish 49ers
2012 PARALYMPICS:FIVE PARALYMPIC medals, three of them gold, is the Irish target this summer in London.
A team that has always demanded to be judged on success or failure at major championships trooped out yesterday in the RDS Concert Hall, defiant and competitive, as usual.
The only one of the 49 athletes not there was sprinter Jason Smyth, who travelled to Helsinki to the European Championships, where he had hoped to qualify for the Olympic Games. While that dream is parked for the moment Smyth will go to the Paralympics as one of those expected to medal. He is the Paralympic champion and world record holder.
Ranging from sailor John Twomey, who goes in his 10th successive Paralympic Games, to 15-year-old sprinter and long jumper Heather Jameson – youngest member of the squad – the team actually hopes to exceed their stated target.
“Our target is five medals, three of which should be gold,” said performance director Nancy Chillingworth. “This is a high target to set. But this is an ambitious movement. We believe when we go to London we can reach that target and even exceed it. There is the chance this could be the most successful Irish sporting team of all time.”
Heady words, but Ireland travel with a collection of world champions and world record holders.
Michael McKillop is the 800m and 1500m champion and world record holder, while thrower Catherine O’Neil is a world champion in the discus.
Catherine Walsh and Fran Meehan go as world champion cyclists, as do Colin Lynch and Mark Rohan, who takes part in the hand cycling event, the first time Ireland has had an entry in that competition. Much is expected of the world champion on both road and the track from Westmeath.
Cycling has become one of the main success stories of the team. Ireland has never won a Paralympic medal on the road or track but cyclists like Rohan, Lynch and Walsh have contributed to 13 c championship medals. The cycling team have a real chance to break the Paralympic duck.
New arrivals to this level are the equestrian team, the rowers, and Curragh-based soldier Seán Baldwin in shooting.
Kerry’s Roy Guerin adds a different complexion to the spread of sports as he qualifies for a place in the powerlifting, the first time Ireland has done so since the 1960s.
The team is one athlete larger than the one that travelled to Beijing and is the biggest team since the Atlanta Games in 1996.
With 20 different counties represented across 10 sports, the medal hopes are impressive.
Five reigning world champions from athletics and cycling and two defending Paralympic Champions in Smyth and McKillop suggest the ambitions are not overly inflated.
In chef de mission, Liam Harbison’s address to the team yesterday he thanked all those who supported the movement but made it clear this was no team of athletes content to take a free ride to London.
“It’s time for us to make a return on the faith and investment placed in us by them all – we aim to deliver,” he said.
The team will now travel to Antrim for the first ever Paralympic Training Camp and then attend another Training Camp in Limerick in August before travelling to Portugal on August 16th.
O Barry (Discus), A Dunne (Discus, Shot), H Jameson (100m, 20m, Long Jump), N Lattimore (Discus, Shot), James McCarthy (Shot), John McCarthy (Club, 100m), M McKillop (800m, 1500m), R O’Dwyer (Discus, Javelin, Shot), C O’Neil (Discus, Club), J Smyth (100m, 200m), Boccia: R Connelly (Mixed Ind, Mixed Team), J Cronin (Mixed Ind), T Leahy (Mixed Ind, Mixed Team), P Moran (Mixed Team), G Shelly (Mixed Team).
J Brown (Track — 1K TT, 4k Ind Pursuit; Road — TT, Road Race), K George-Dunleavy (Track: 1k TT, 3k Ind Pursuit), S Fitzgerald (Track: 1k TT, 3k Ind Pursuit; Road TT, Road Race), C Lynch (Track; Team Sprint, 3k Ind Pursuit; Road; TT, Road Race), F Meehan (Track: 1k TT, 3k Ind Pursuit; Road TT, Road Race), C Miller (1k TT, 3k Ind Pursuit; Road TT, Road Race), M Rohan (TT, Road Race), D Shaw (1k TT, 3k Ind Pursuit; Road TT, Road Race), E Smyth (Track: 1k TT, 4k Ind Pursuit, Team Sprint; Road TT, Road Race), C Walsh (Track 1k TT, 3k Ind Pursuit; Road TT, Road Race).
E Byrne (Grade 2 Team Test), J Dwyer (Grade 4 Team Test), Grade 4 Championship, G Savage Grade (1a Team Test, Grade 1a Championship), H Kearney (Grade 1a Team Test, Grade 1a Championship).
R Guerin (67.5kg).
S Caffrey, AM McDaid, S Ryan, K DuToit, H Arbuthnot (Mixed Cox Four).
J Twomey, A Hegarty, I Costello (Sonar).
B Firth (200m FS, 100m BS, 100m BrS), E Keane (200m IM, 100m BS, 100mBrS), J Scully (50m FS, 50m BS, 100m FS, 200m FS), J McGrath (400m FS), D McDonald (50m FS, 100m FS, 400m FS), L McGivern (100m BS).
E Breathnach, R McCarron Rooney (singles, 2 Team), P Quinlan, R Rooney (singles, 3Team).