As the curtain drew down on the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games on Monday, there was jubilation across Galway with no fewer than 11 medals set to return to the county.
The Galway contingent comprised nine athletes and eight official delegates and, remarkably, each of the competitors emerged bearing a medal across a wide spectrum of disciplines.
There was double joy for bowler Jonathan Griffin from Ballinasloe, who won gold in the doubles and team event, as well as coming fourth in the singles.
Kayaker Ruairi O Connor from Spiddle also tasted double success, winning the 200m. while also claiming silver in the 500m.
John Loughane of Ahascragh is another Olympian who returned with a gold medal. He won the equestrian working trails as well coming fourth in the equitation.
Castlegar’s Denise Flattery was second in the golf skills, while Gary Cunnigham won a bronze medal with the men’s basketball side.
Galway also had strong representation on the ladies’ five a side soccer team which finished in third place. Linda Cannon of Athenry, Emma Finneran of Ballinasloe, and Ahascragh duo Christine Kelly and Fionnuala Treacy all featured for the bronze medal winners.
The games ran from June 25 to July 4 in Athens and the victorious Galway athletes were part of a 126-strong Irish team, the 10th largest delegation in a renewal featuring 185 nations and 7,500 competitors.
Participating in 12 sports, the crew returned with a wonderful haul of 107 medals, 37 gold, 44 silver, and 32 bronze, as well as dozens of place ribbons.
To underline their achievement, 10 athletes recorded personal bests.
Speaking about Team Ireland’s performance at the games, Matt English, CEO Special Olympics Ireland, said: “So much work goes into preparing a team for competition on the world sporting stage. Team Ireland put a huge amount of effort into their training schedule in advance of these games and they certainly reaped the awards in Athens.
“They recorded dozens of personal best performances as well as medal wins and these results are testament to the hard work and dedication of both the athletes and the coaching team.
“I applaud each and every member of Team Ireland and congratulate them on their outstanding sporting achievements.”