Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Gymnasts aim for medal haul at Special Olympics

Belfast’s SALTO Gymnastics Club will be well represented at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens later this month as three talented gymnasts go for gold.

The 13th annual World Summer Games is the biggest sporting event worldwide this summer.

More than 7,000 athletes from across the world will travel to the iconic Panathenaic Stadium in Athens to participate in the games, and three Belfast athletes — Barbara Norris, Una McGarry and Pauline Connell — will be hoping to make the most of this experience of a lifetime.

All three gymnasts train together at the SALTO Special Olympics Club in south Belfast and will join the 126-strong Team Ireland squad to compete in Athens.

Barbara Norris (24) will participate in the rhythmic gymnastics competition along with club mate Una McGarry.

Barbara was injured during the last World Games in Shanghai in 2007 and was unable to compete, so this is her second chance for international success.

Mother, Erica and father, Neil said this is an incredibly proud moment for Barbara and they will be there in the stands to cheer her on. Barbara recently won three golds and two silvers at the All-Ireland Special Olympics Games in Limerick and she is hoping to continue this run of form in Athens.

Team mate Una McGarry is also hoping for success in Athens and has been training hard with head coach Hazel Coates.

Una, who won two gold medals at the Shanghai World Games in 2007, said: “I can’t wait to get to Athens.”

Una says she hopes she can support some of the new Team Ireland members and soak up the “amazing atmosphere”.

Mother Nuala, father, Colm and brothers and sisters Liam, Niamh and Colm will all be there to cheer her on.

The final member of this inspiring trio is Pauline Connell (23) from Lisburn. Pauline trains at Belfast’s SALTO club and has recovered from a recent injury to take part in the World Summer Games. Pauline, who will participate in the artistic gymnastics competition, says she is incredibly excited about travelling to Greece and feels grateful for the support of all her coaches.

All three athletes will travel to Rhodes on June 20 for their final acclimatisation camp. The Games, featuring 7,500 athletes from 185 nations, will begin on June 25, and run until July, 4.

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