Westmeath athletes at Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi
91 Team Ireland athletes – including four from Westmeath – among over 7,000 athletes competing at World Summer Games
The World Summer Games will be the largest sporting and humanitarian event in the world this year
Team Ireland to compete in 12 Olympic style sports
World Games open today, Thursday March 14, and run till March 21
Team Ireland athlete John Keenan (centre) from Ballymore, with his brother and sister at Dublin Airport ahead of Team Ireland’s departure for the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Photo: Ricardo Guglielminotti
Ninety one Team Ireland athletes, including four from Westmeath, are in Abu Dhabi for the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games.
Opening today, Thursday March 14, Abu Dhabi 2019 will be the largest sporting and humanitarian event in the world this year.
Supported by a volunteer management team of 39, the 91-strong Team Ireland will join 7,000 Special Olympics athletes from 170 countries at the Games.
With 350 family and friends also making the trip to support their loved ones, Ireland is set to be one of the best supported nations at the Games.
Second only to the United States, this wealth of encouragement is certain to give Team Ireland the edge as they step up to compete.
The Westmeath athletes will represent Team Ireland in three sports.
Sarah Kilmartin (22) and Shauna Stewart (23), both from Athlone and members of Athlone Special Olympics Club, will compete as part of the Team Ireland Ladies Basketball squad.
Mary Daly (44) from Delvin will represent Team Ireland in Badminton and gymnast John Keenan (19) from Ballymore will compete in Artistic Gymnastics.
The Westmeath athletes are joined by fellow Team Ireland athletes from across the island of Ireland, who will compete in a total of 12 sports: athletics, badminton, basketball, bocce, bowling, equestrian, football, golf, gymnastics, kayaking, swimming and table tennis.
Team Ireland prepared for their World Games experience with a visit to Dubai as part of the Host Town programme.
They had an opportunity to acclimatise to their surroundings with a range of cultural events and activities before the official Opening Ceremony today, Thursday March 14.
The Opening Ceremony, at the Zayed Sports City Stadium, will be a spectacular celebration of humanity at its best.
More than 40,000 spectators will witness 170 nations take place in a celebratory parade, with the athletes being accompanied by a number of international celebrities including singer and Special Olympics Global Ambassador, Nicole Scherzinger.
The World Games run until March 21.
Matt English, CEO Special Olympics Ireland, said: “I am extremely proud of each of our athletes who will represent Special Olympics Ireland at the 2019 World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi.
“Each has demonstrated dedication, discipline and skill in various sports in order to reach this level of competition, and that itself is worthy of celebration.
“They are paving the way for the nearly 8,000 Special Olympics athletes training in clubs across Ireland.
“They are all winners in our eyes, and it is a remarkable achievement not only for the athletes, but also for their coaches, families and volunteers.”
Emma McMenamin, head of delegation, Special Olympics Ireland, said: “It is a real honour for these athletes to be selected to represent Team Ireland at the Special Olympics World Summer Games and we feel an immense sense of pride.
“We encourage the nation to get behind the team in the coming weeks by following their progress on social media and sharing messages of support.”
To keep up to date with Team Ireland’s preparations for the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi, follow Special Olympics Ireland on Twitter, @SOIreland and Facebook, facebook.com/SpecialOlympicsIreland and follow the hashtags, #TeamIreland and #PlayYourPart.