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Rio Olympics: Gleghorne brothers Paul and Mark follow aunt Jackie McWilliam's footsteps

By Graham Hamilton

Brothers Paul and Mark Gleghorne made a special bit of history when they became Olympians in Rio earlier this week ... and not only because they featured in different teams.

Paul, of course, is a key defender in the Irish squad while Mark is a striker with Great Britain after moving to England and switching allegiance, and siblings playing in different teams is most unusual if not unique in Games folklore.

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That has been well documented in the past, though, as they have already lined out against each other on numerous occasions in competitions.

But what isn't so well known is that there is already an Olympian in their extended family ... and she has a bronze medal to prove it.

We're talking about Jackie McWilliams, of course, the former Randalstown Ladies star who was part of the successful Great Britain squad at the Barcelona Games in 1992.

We all know her as Jackie, a wonderful defender who played a key role in GB gaining bronze.

But to Paul and Mark she's simply ... Auntie Jackie, the sister of their late mother Anne.

And Jackie would love it if either or both could better her achievement, even though she admits it's not looking too good, with both Ireland and Great Britain sitting lower in their pools than they would have hoped for at this stage.

The Gleghorne brothers have always insisted they have taken inspiration from their auntie's achievement, but Jackie plays down that notion.

"Hockey runs through our families and the progress they've made is down to them and not necessarily me," said the Ballymena schoolteacher.

"I am so pleased for them to have the experience of playing at an Olympics, as it is something special, and I am glued to the screen each time either of them play in Rio.

"Mark was first to qualify with GB and then it was an anxious wait to see if Pau and the Irish team would join them.

"And then there was the worry that they could stay injury-free in the run-up, and finally whether they would definitely make selection.

"But both have made it, and I don't mind if either or both go on and do better than me."

Jackie won 34 caps with GB and a further 64 with Ireland - you could play for both then but that loophole has been closed - and also was an indoor international.

"In my day only eight teams qualified for the Olympics but now it is 12," she said.

"The benefit now is that if you suffer an early defeat, it's no longer a case of being down and out - there is still time to make it.

"It's going to be tough for the Irish to make the knock-out phase with so many quality teams in their pool but it's still possible, while GB should still make it but will need a few wins quickly."

Mark and Paul's father Andy and brother Peter are both out in Rio to see it all, but sadly their mother Anne passed away over a dozen years ago.

The chances are she's looking down on her boys proudly.

Just like Rio's world famous landmark, the Christ the Redeemer statue.

Belfast Telegraph


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