The countdown is now on, as Team Ireland prepares to travel to the Special Olympics World Winter Games in just under two months and one local athlete is gearing up for the chance of a lifetime.
Loughrea’s Raymond McClearn will be one of a 26-strong Team Ireland squad at the Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 in Graz and Schladming, Austria, in March.
The 38-year-old plays floorball, a team sport similar to unihoc or ice hockey but played in a rink on a standard playing surface and it will be his first time competing at a world games.
As part of his training regime, McClearn goes for a 30 minute walk every morning before breakfast and trains with his soccer and floorball teams to ensure sure he is fit and ready for the Games.
McClearn is hoping to add a world Games medal to his already impressive tally of bronze, gold, and silver medals from the Special Olympics Ireland Games in 2010, 2014, and 2016.
McClearn comes from a family with genuine sporting pedigree; his brother is Galwegians RFC senior head coach Brian McClearn and Connacht Rugby captain John Muldoon is a first cousin.
When he is not training, McClearn attends Loughrea Community Workshop and works on various projects including computer skills, gardening, and woodwork.
He also helps to fundraise for Special Olympics, including volunteering at the sports charity’s annual collection day.
Commenting on the Team Ireland launch, Myra Merrick, regional director, Special Olympics Connaught, said: “We are extremely proud of Raymond for being selected to represent Team Ireland at the 2017 World Winter Games.
“He has shown great dedication and motivation, as well as strong discipline and tremendous skill in getting this far. The whole of Co Galway and beyond will be cheering him and all our athletes on. We wish Raymond and the whole of Team Ireland well with their preparations.”
The Special Olympics World Winter Games Austria 2017 will be the largest sports event to take place in 2017, hosting 3,000 athletes from 110 countries worldwide.
Team Ireland will join almost 3,000 Special Olympics athletes from 107 countries for the Games, which are already set to be one of the sporting highlights of 2017.
Businesses in Co Galway that would like further information on how to support Team Ireland should visit www.specialolympics.ie or call the Special Olympics Connaught office on 071-9118320.
To keep up to date with Team Ireland’s progress, follow Special Olympics Ireland on Twitter @SOIreland, and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SpecialOlympicsIreland