Athletes from around the world have gathered in Athlone in anticipation of the 2018 International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS ) Youth World Games.
The multi-sport competition, presently underway at AIT, concludes on July 5 and sees 165 athletes from 16 countries compete in athletics, swimming and table tennis. These athletes will compete in three age categories - under-23s, under-20s, and under-18s.
Speaking prior to the Games commencement, Chairperson of the IWAS Games Committee, Dina Sotiriadi, said, 'we expect this edition to be one of the most exciting yet with just over two years to go until Tokyo 2020. Some of the athletes we see compete could go on to the Paralympic Games while others will get their first taste of international competition. That is why it is so important to have state-of-the-art venues like the Athlone Institute of Technology, where youngsters can shine.'
In keeping with the Games’ ethos, the young athletes will have an opportunity to showcase their sporting prowess, meet with other para athletes and experience different cultures. For many athletes, the IWAS Youth World Games acts as a stepping stone to a successful sporting career.
Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin, President of Athlone Institute of Technology, delivered the opening address in AIT’s International Sports Arena, stating, 'the ethos of the IWAS Games is to give young athletes a platform to shine, to nurture their talent. Here at our institute, we strive to do the same. We educate students to ensure they reach their full potential, not just academically but also through their respective sporting disciplines.
“The arena in which we stand has seen many regional, national, international and world-class champions train, compete and break records. It has turned junior athletes into international superstars as they cross the finish line. This arena and our facilities will give competitors an opportunity to shine as they move into the next phase of this competition.'
Irish athlete Cillian Dunne will be flying the flag for Ireland in athletics in the T54 category. Mr Dunne, who has been competing in athletics since he was five, is a former thrower who switched to track in 2012 following a stomach surgery. In 2016, the 21-year-old took home silver medals in the 200 and 400 meters and a bronze medal in the 100 meters at the IWAS Games in Prague.
The 2018 IWAS Youth World Games commenced on Tuesday morning with the discus event. All athletics and table tennis takes place on-site at Athlone Institute of Technology’s €10 Million International Sports Arena which comprises of Olympic and FIFA-standard sporting facilities including a high-performance training centre, an anti-gravity treadmill and cryo-pod chambers. All swimming competitions will be contested at the Regional Sports Centre in Athlone.