| 12.1°C Belfast

How young Caolan's rapid progress on the slopes earned him Olympic place

Close

Caolan McConville will be one of the youngest competitors at the Special Olympics Winter Games

Caolan McConville will be one of the youngest competitors at the Special Olympics Winter Games

Caolan McConville will be one of the youngest competitors at the Special Olympics Winter Games

Caolan McConville will be one of the youngest competitors at the Special Olympics Winter Games

/

Caolan McConville will be one of the youngest competitors at the Special Olympics Winter Games

Just one week ago Co Antrim teenager Caolan McConville skied on snow for the first time in his life.

Remarkably, by March he will be in Austria as one of the youngest competitors in Team Ireland for the Special Olympics World Winter Games.

The spectacle has been billed as the largest sporting event of 2017, with 3,000 competitors from 107 countries taking part.

The 13-year-old from Aghagallon, near Craigavon, will be part of 26 athletes in Team Ireland, including fellow Ulster skiers Sean McCartan from Carryduff, Co Down and Cyril Walker from Markethill in Co Armagh.

In the past, others sports have proved overwhelming for Caolan, with his autism causing him to have complex sensory issues.

However, his mother Edel - chairperson and coach at St Mary's Camogie Club in Aghagallon - says skiing has now given him a sense of freedom he's never experienced before.

"A friend came to the camogie club with her mum and asked if Caolan had ever wanted to try the dry ski slopes in Craigavon. I'd passed it hundreds of times and never thought of it, but I brought him over and he just took to it like a duck to water," she said.

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

"The coaches were so pleased about how he adapted to the snow, he absolutely loved it."

Caolan flies out for the opening ceremony in Austria on March 18, to begin competing in slalom races two days later. No less than 13 family members will be there to cheer him on including his mum, dad Peadar and three older sisters Leanne, Patrice and Carol.

"I'm very excited, I'll be in Austria soon doing the slalom," said Caolan yesterday.

He said his trial run in Austria last week had only increased his confidence.

"It was really fun, really good. It was a lot faster, funner and easier," he said.

"Skiing is really the only sport I like. It's just the craic of it I like best, I just like going down the slopes and having fun."

Asked for the best advice his coaches and team mates had offered he said: "Be prepared and go faster."

Peadar McConville, a professional videographer, has been filming his son's rapid progress on the ski slopes.

"It's buzzing in our house at the moment," he said.

"Since he's come back from Austria the momentum's grown. There's 13 of us going out and everybody's counting the days."

"Austria was the first time in his life he got to ski on snow and he adapted really well to it. Now he's off to the Olympics - at 13 that's not bad going!"

Mrs McConville said the effect the sport has had on her son has been astounding.

"As a parent of a child with autism, trying your best to give him the best things in life, this is just phenomenal how he's embraced it," she said. "We just can't believe how well he's taken to it and succeeded, we're very proud of him. His three older sisters and his school at St Joseph's in Coalisland are backing him 100%."

She added: "For any young person with difficulty in their life to achieve so much is just excellent."

Shaun Cassidy, regional director of Special Olympics Ulster, added his praise: "We are extremely proud of Caolan, Sean and Cyril being selected to represent Team Ireland," he said.

"They have shown unwavering determination and motivation, as well as strong discipline and tremendous skill in getting this far. The whole of Ulster will be cheering them on when they take to the slopes in Austria in March and we wish them well with their preparations."


Top Videos



Privacy