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Kirsty Devlin is a golden wonder in LA


Four-medal winner Kirsty Devlin (left) with Ireland team-mate Ashleigh O’Hagan from Limerick, who won two bronze medals

Four-medal winner Kirsty Devlin (left) with Ireland team-mate Ashleigh O’Hagan from Limerick, who won two bronze medals


Four-medal winner Kirsty Devlin (left) with Ireland team-mate Ashleigh O’Hagan from Limerick, who won two bronze medals

She's Belfast's glittering golden girl.

At the age of just 21, Kirsty Devlin collected an astonishing FOUR medals in one day at the Special Olympics in Los Angeles.

Her proud mum Elizabeth had tears in her eyes as her daughter, who has Down's syndrome, won two gold medals, two silvers and a fourth place ribbon in the rhythmic gymnastic events.

"It means the world to Kirsty and to the whole family. She's been training hard in the run up to the Games. All of the hard work has paid off," said Elizabeth.

A selection of family members were thrilled to be able to cheer her on from the sidelines after months of doubt about whether they would even be able to make the 5,000 mile trip from Belfast to southern California to see Kirsty take centre stage.

But the group have made the most of their time in Hollywood, both inside and outside the gym. Before the competition began, Kirsty was hanging out with Irish actor Colin Farrell and they walked hand in hand into the opening ceremony.

Now her outstanding achievements as a gymnast will make her a star in her own right.

Elizabeth added: "She'll be a celebrity when she gets home - everyone will shake her hand, congratulate her. They all love her back in Belfast, everyone loves her!"

Elizabeth has promised to throw a huge party for Kirsty and her family and friends at home to celebrate her exceptional achievements.

She continued: "We're looking forward to celebrating with her and all the family back in Belfast."

Her uncle Lewis Nesbitt said that Kirsty "doesn't do nervous - she's always confident, she loves it" and he was right as she climbed onto the podium time after time.

She previously had success as an artistic gymnast, winning two golds, a silver and a bronze at the Special Olympics in China in 2007 but switched to rhythmic gymnastics a few years ago.

After months of training at Salto gymnastics club in Lisburn and monthly trips to Dublin to train with her Irish teammates, Kirsty has brought home another haul of medals, including Team Ireland's first gold.

Despite the tough training schedule, she loves her sport and the opportunities it has given her.

"I like being part of a team and it is really good to be able to meet people and make new friends", she said recently.

Congratulations have already been pouring in with Hazel Coates, Head Coach of Salto's Special Olympics club, explaining: "Since she was selected for LA she's been training very hard and been putting a lot of hard work into her gymnastics.

"I felt absolutely delighted when she won all those medals. I'm very, very proud of her. To get so many medals was absolutely phenomenal."

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Arder Carson, said: "I am sure I join everyone in Belfast in congratulating Kirsty on her achievement.

"I had the pleasure of meeting Kirsty and her family before she left for Los Angeles and she is a terrific ambassador for our city. I would like to wish her, and all the other athletes, all the best for the remainder of the competition."

Shaun Cassidy, regional director of Special Olympics Ulster, said: "Our congratulations go to all of the athletes and particularly Ulster's Kirsty Devlin who won the first gold medal for Team Ireland and four medals in total, which is a sensational achievement."

Belfast Telegraph