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Gold rush as Northern Ireland athletes enjoy a Super Saturday at Special Olympics

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 03/08/2015

Fifteen-year-old equestrian competitor Dearbhail Savage
Fifteen-year-old equestrian competitor Dearbhail Savage
Fifteen-year-old equestrian competitor Dearbhail Savage, being congratulated by friends and family
Sarah Jane Johnston with her bronze swimming medal

Athletes from Northern Ireland helped to achieve a 'Super Saturday' haul of medals for the team on the final day of the Special Olympics in the US.

Team Ireland claimed 16 medals on the last day of the competition in Los Angeles, bringing the overall tally to an incredible 86 medals. The inspirational team won 26 gold, 29 silver and 31 bronze during the 10-day event.

Athletes from Northern Ireland were among the sporting stars who helped make these games among the most successful and memorable to date. An 88-strong Team Ireland - including 12 Ulster athletes -competed in 12 different Olympic-style sports over the last 10 days. Their selection comes after four years of training and competition.

Inspiring 15-year-old equestrian competitor, Dearbhail Savage from Mowhan, Co Armagh - Team Ireland's youngest athlete - rounded off the Games by securing her third medal - a gold in Team Relay, adding to her gold and silver won earlier this week.

Local people took the 15-year-old to their hearts as a video of the moment she found out she had won and her family erupted in cheers and tears went viral.

Her brother Micheal, who stayed at home while his parents, grandparents and eight brothers and sisters flew out to LA, said: "It was great. My mum is very emotional. The rest of us are so delighted for her."

Dearbhail has Down's syndrome and struggles to speak, but Micheal says she is "always cheerful" and has become quite a character at the Games.

Carole Catling (37), from Newtownabbey, grabbed a gold for Team Ireland in table tennis, and 38-year-old Nuala Browne from Strabane clinched silver in kayaking at the World Games in Los Angeles.

Swimmer Sarah Jane Johnston from Lurgan won a bronze in the 100m backstroke. Team Ireland also notched up 31 personal bests and 43 placement ribbons. A host of placement ribbons were also achieved by Team Ireland athletes on the last day including footballers Christopher Kane from Lisburn and Peter Fitzpatrick from Ballynahinch.

Team Ireland CEO Matt English said: "Each and every member of Team Ireland has put in an extraordinary effort. This has been one of the most successful Games ever."

The curtain came down on the 2015 World Games yesterday with a closing ceremony featuring performances from singer songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen and Victoria Arlen, Paralympic gold medallist.

Factfile

Twelve local Special Olympics Ulster athletes competed: Christopher Kane (19) from Lisburn and Peter Fitzpatrick (20) from Ballynahinch, Co Down (5-a side football); Carole Catling (37) from Newtownabbey, Co Antrim (table tennis); Kirsty Devlin, (20) from Belfast and Patrick Quinlivan (32) from Letterkenny, Co Donegal (gymnastics); Oliver Doherty (38) from Buncrana, Co Donegal, Jill Connery (29) from Scarva, Co Armagh & playing partner, Ursula McDonnell, (71) from Belfast (all golf); Sarah Jane Johnston (35) from Lurgan (aquatics); Dearbhail Savage (14) from Mowhan, Co Armagh (equestrian); Sean Campbell (30) from Coleraine (10-pin bowling); and Nuala Browne (38) from Strabane (kayaking).

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