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Woman tells of Special Olympics joy

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Team Ireland bowler Joyce Haughian from Warrenpoint Co Down, with her three medals, is greeted by her mother Catherine (left) and sister Fiona

Team Ireland bowler Joyce Haughian from Warrenpoint Co Down, with her three medals, is greeted by her mother Catherine (left) and sister Fiona

Team Ireland bowler Joyce Haughian from Warrenpoint Co Down, with her three medals, is greeted by her mother Catherine (left) and sister Fiona

A 10-pin bowler has fulfilled a lifelong dream to bring home a gold medal from the Special Olympics.

Joyce Haughian beamed with pride as she arrived home to an emotional hero's welcome with Team Ireland and their haul of 107 medals.

Cheers and cries of "ole!" rang through the arrivals hall at Dublin Airport even before the athletes' flight from Athens touched down.

"It was the best experience of my life, it definitely was," said Joyce, 29, from Warrenpoint, Co Down, holding up her gold and two silver medals.

"I feel I have completed my goal, the goal I've been waiting for all my life. I'm shouting at the top of my voice 'I've done it, I've done it'. Not only for me, for Ireland.

"It's ecstatic here, it's phenomenal," she added.

Hundreds of family and friends travelled from around the country and waved flags, banners, posters and tricolour feather boas as the weary athletes finally arrived home.

The Special Olympics was the biggest sporting event of the summer, with 7,000 athletes from 185 nations. Team Ireland's 126 athletes brought home 31 gold, 44 silver and 32 bronze medals.

The youngest competitor, 12-year-old Fergal Gregory proudly wore his gold for swimming, while the eldest, 67-year-old Mary Kirby form Limerick, carried a bronze for bocce. "I was so happy," said Fergal, from Crossmaglen in Co Armagh. "I swam and swam and touched the wall."

A host of celebrations including street parties and barbecues are already being planned in towns around the country for the local heroes, with a civic reception being staged for gold medal-winning gymnast Carole Ryan from Wexford on Saturday.

PA


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