Ballinahown man strikes gold in Canada

Mark Rohan with his mother Carmel and dad Dennis (left) and aunts Carmel and Rose (right) on his homecoming to Ballinahowen on Tuesday night. Photo: molloyphotography.

Mark Rohan with his mother Carmel and dad Dennis (left) and aunts Carmel and Rose (right) on his homecoming to Ballinahowen on Tuesday night. Photo: molloyphotography.

A former Castledaly and Westmeath U21 fullback, whose football career was tragically cut short by a motorcycle accident nine years ago, became the world champion in para-cycling last weekend.

Ballinahown man Mark Rohan (29 ) won Ireland's first ever para-cycling World Championship gold when he won the H1 handcycling road race in Baie-Comeau, Quebec, Canada on Saturday.

Proving once again that competitive juices flow deep, the former international wheelchair basketballer only took up the hand bike two years ago, and was welcomed back to Ireland with his gold medal and the rainbow jersey of a world cycling champion by a big crowd and RTE on his arrival at Dublin airport on Tuesday.

According to reports from Canada, Rohan rode a very tactical race, and pulled away from the rest of the field in the first lap of the 33km race with the former world champion, Austrian rider Wolfgang Schattauer.

In the second lap these two were joined by the Israeli rider Yakof Lion and from this point in the race it was clear that these three would share out the medals.

On the final climb Rohan and Schattauer increased the pressure to drop the Israeli rider and leave it a two horse race for the gold medal.

With just 500 metres to go Rohan attacked from behind to overtake Schattauer and held him off in a thrilling finish to win by just two seconds and take the gold for Ireland.

Expressing delight at the result, Irish para-cycling manager Denis Toomey said he was so proud of Rohan on his great performance and paid tribute to coaches Beverly Chamberlain and Brian Nugent as well as the other support staff - mechanic Gerry Beggs and masseuse Fionnuala Kirby for the part they played in Rohan's great win.

“Singing the Irish national anthem at a World Championship medal ceremony was a great experience and hopefully one we will repeat again,” said Toomey.

The win gives Ireland a huge boost towards qualifying for the 2012 Paralympics in London. At the end of 2010, the top 40 male and top 25 female teams in the world rankings each earn one place on the starting line in London.Although these rankings have not been published yet, Denis Toomey believes Ireland would not be “too far away from the top”, and is quietly confident of a starting place in the East End two summers hence.

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