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Let it snow as local trio make Special Olympics ski-ing team

By Robert Jones

Published 23/11/2016

Austria bound: ski coaches Jill Sloan and Glenn Williamson (far left and right) with Ulster Team Ireland skiers (front) Cyril Walker and Caolan McConville and (back) Sean McCartan
Austria bound: ski coaches Jill Sloan and Glenn Williamson (far left and right) with Ulster Team Ireland skiers (front) Cyril Walker and Caolan McConville and (back) Sean McCartan

Three Ulster competitors have been selected for the Team Ireland Special Olympics squad for the World Winter Games 2017. A total of 26 athletes will compete in floorball and alpine skiing next March in Graz and Schladming, Austria.

Local Team Ireland alpine skiers and Special Olympics Ulster athletes Caolán McConville, Sean McCarten and Cyril Walker are three of six Irish skiers bound for the slopes, some to sample ski-ing on snow for the first time.

At just 12 years of age, Caolán McConville, from Aghagallon, Co. Antrim, is one of the youngest members of the Team Ireland squad. Having only started skiing in 2014, he has already notched up an impressive collection of medals including two golds at the Special Olympics Ireland Winter Games 2016.

Sean McCartan (16),m from Carryduff is another rising star. Having joined the Special Olympics programme aged just seven years old, he has grown to become a very confident skier over the last nine years, notching up quite the collection of medals, including two golds at the Special Olympics Ireland Winter Games in 2016.

Cyril Walker (46), from Markethill in Co. Armagh is one of the more experienced members of the team, having previously competed and won bronze at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Japan in 2009.

Head coach Jill Sloan said: "We train on a dry or artificial ski slope. There is a lot more friction on it, so if you can ski on that you can definitely ski on snow.

"Some of the team have not skied on snow before and will have their first chance when we head to Austria in January for training."

The Special Olympics World Winter Games Austria 2017 will be the largest sports event to take place in 2017, hosting 3,000 athletes from 110 countries worldwide. Team Ireland will join almost 3,000 Special Olympics athletes from 107 countries for the Games with backing from Sport NI, eir, Gala, Aer Lingus, INM and Adshel.

Sponsorship opportunities are still available for local businesses - for info, visit www.specialolympics.ie or call the Special Olympics Ulster office on 028 9089 2996.

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