Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Northern Ireland ranked top UK region at Paralympics

Kelly Gallagher with her gold medal
Kelly Gallagher with her gold medal

Kelly Gallagher's history-making gold-medal success at the Winter Paralympics has put Northern Ireland top in the UK.

When Bangor-woman Kelly won the super-G event in Sochi earlier this week she followed in the path of other Ulster-born Paralympic winners Jason Smith and Michael McKillop, who both won track gold at London 2012 and four years earlier in Beijing.

And that makes Northern Ireland number one, as far as Paralympic success is concerned.

"When you consider that Northern Ireland athletes won seven medals, including five gold, at the summer Paralympics Games in London and now that Kelly has become the first athlete from the UK or Ireland to win a gold medal at the Winter Paralympics, Northern Ireland is clearly punching more than its weight in Paralympic Sport," said Disability Sport NI chief executive Kevin O'Neill.

"We are certainly the most successful region of the UK or Ireland per capita and doing much better than many much larger regions and countries."

Although most of the medals have come within the last two years, it is more than a recent success story.

Instead O'Neill believes they have come as the result of hard work going back into the 1990s.

"I think it is because we have worked hard with Sport Northern Ireland and other mainstream sports organisations over the last 15 years in developing a system which provides talented athletes with a good support system," he said.

"Taking the time to put a support system in place over the years has started to pay dividends.

"We are better now at identifying talented athletes in the first place and getting them the funding, performance management and sport science support they need."

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