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Special Olympics: Carole Catling and Nuala Browne strike gold and silver as our medal haul rises

By Laura Abernethy

The medals just keep coming for Ulster's Special Olympics athletes.

Yesterday Carole Catling (37), from Newtownabbey, grabbed a gold for Team Ireland in table tennis, and 38-year-old Nuala Browne from Strabane clinched silver in kayaking at the World Games in Los Angeles.

Carole's biggest supporters - her parents Vivienne and Victor - cheered her on as they watched her secure another gold medal to add to the one she won in Athens four years ago.

Her coach John McCardle was overjoyed for his star player.

"I'm very pleased but not surprised because Carole is a very dedicated person to the Games," he said.

"She's been a great part of the table tennis squad and I'm so pleased that she's achieved this. Carole never lets me down. She's always so willing to take part. She deserves her medal."

Strabane star Nuala, meanwhile, was delighted with her second-place finish in the kayaking.

"I've got a silver medal to bring back home to Strabane - it feels great," she said. "Everyone was shouting for me when I was on the water, I could hear them really clearly. I feel proud and happy and I'm looking forward to taking the medal home. Everyone will be so proud of me for taking part in the World Games."

Nuala's family were unable to join her, but they followed her progress online and were delighted with her medal.

Her mum Frances, said: "I'm on a high still. I can't stop grinning. I'm so proud. I just wanted to be there to give her a huge hug."

Nuala, who has Down's syndrome, is a well-known figure in her home town. She loves to dance, swim and play basketball, and she was recently honoured by Barnardo's for almost 20 years of volunteering at the family centre in Strabane.

Centre manager Mustapha Benhassine said: "She's forever smiling and forever looking to help others. Everybody is delighted to hear of yet another medal for Nuala."

Bill Mcintyre, head coach at Nuala's club, added: "We're all so proud of her. She has achieved so much."

Friends and family are planning a huge civic reception and party for Nuala's homecoming on Tuesday. Her mum said: "I can't wait. I just want her home now. I just want to send her all my congratulations."

Shaun Cassidy, regional director for Special Olympics Ulster, added: "We send our congratulations and best wishes to all of the athletes, who continue to make us so proud, and (we give) a special mention to Carole Catling and Nuala Browne on winning gold and silver. We are bursting with pride at their achievements."

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