Ulster aces chase Olympic dream
Seven Ulster athletes have travelled to Belgium with hopes of securing medals at the Special Olympics European Summer Games in Antwerp.
The local competitors are part of a 46-strong Team Ireland squad that will contest a range of sports.
Adam Smyth (18) from Lisburn will be vying for a medal in badminton; Dale Moore (18) from Dungannon will compete in swimming events; Darren McClatchey (31) from Banbridge will take part in bocce; Michael Lafferty (20) from Drumalee, Co Cavan will compete in 200m sprint and javelin events; Paul Gordon (37) from Omagh will take part in shot putt and the 100m sprint; Philomena Doherty (45) from Stranorlar, Co Donegal will also compete in shot putt, as well as the 100m walk; while Tony Lunny (29) from Banbridge will take part in a range of gymnastics events.
Team Ireland will spend just under two weeks in Belgium and will be supported by an 18-strong management team.
Some 140 family members are in Belgium to cheer on the athletes. The team flew out from Dublin Airport courtesy of Aer Lingus, sponsors of the squad.
Antwerp will welcome more than 2,000 athletes from 58 countries with the Games running until September 20.
Shaun Cassidy, regional director Special Olympics Ulster, said: "The Special Olympics European Games are among the most high profile events in Europe this year and we are proud to have such a strong delegation of Ulster athletes representing Team Ireland.
"Special Olympics Ulster supports over 2,000 athletes with an intellectual disability, with year-round activities in 92 clubs.
"For our athletes to reach this level of competition is a real achievement – we wish the whole team well as they prepare for the Games and would encourage people to support our local athletes as they strive to achieve their best."
Special Olympics Ireland CEO Matt English added: "We are calling on everyone to get behind these extraordinary athletes who have overcome so many hurdles."