Last night I was lucky enough to be at the newly opened & absolutely elegant St Pancras Hotel to celebrate the achievements of our 49 Irish Paralympians. Here’s the entire team – looking good.
For a tiny little (bankrupt) country on the periphery of Europe our athletes seem to have done overwhelmingly well in the London 2012 Games (8 gold medals, 3 silver & 5 bronze) over the past couple of weeks.
I apologise right here & right now for being biased towards my own tiny corner of the island of Ireland but 5 of those 8 golds are from 3 Northern Irish athletes including our local Eglinton man Jason Smyth. Here I am snapped with Jason and his two (very heavy) gold medals at last night’s party.
I think he couldn’t believe it when I mentioned to him about us being based in Clarendon Street in Derry. I also told Jason about being in the Olympic Park last Saturday, watching him pick up his gold on the big screen as the Irish anthem blasted out in the evening sun & about how proud I was. I didn’t tell him about hiding my eyes from the friends I was with so that they wouldn’t see my tears.
Great to see everyone plus their families and friends enjoying themselves last night; having a few drinks & dancing the night away. It was also interesting to hear from Paralympics Ireland CEO Liam Harbinson about how sponsorship for the team had increased from a single sponsor in Beijing four years ago to 18 sponsors for London 2012.
Chatting to a few people over the course of the evening the Irish team are already thinking about Rio in four years time and as so many of them are very young indeed, we should be well placed to pick up more than our fair share of medals.
My sister Trish chatted to one of the coaches as we were leaving the party. He had been coaching 10 athletes for London 2012 & all of his team had attained new personal best times in London. He told Trish that was his equivalent of a gold – 100% success with his team.
Here’s Trish with Jason too.
Cherry on the top news at the party was that Michael McKillop (also from Northern Ireland) is to be the recipient of the prestigious Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award as the male athlete who best exemplified the spirit of the Paralympics at the Games in London. McKillop was selected because of the work he does with schoolchildren in Ireland. Two great guys, room mates & friends as well. Lovely to see them both last night being so gracious and generous to all the people who wanted photographs with them & to have a bit of chat & craic & to examine their gold medals etc.
Thanks Team Ireland for making us all so proud and for coming out for fun with us last night despite the fact that all of you must be exhausted after a month away from home and thanks to everyone who organised such a fabulous party (but especially Andy Rogers & Cat Casey). Final special mention for Cat for being able to get up & do a bit of Irish dancing – no mean feat in the stratospheric heels she was wearing!
Rio – Bring It On.