Belfast Telegraph

2015 Special Olympics: Lurgan swimmer Sarah Jane Johnston wins Ireland's first medal

By Stuart McKinley

Sarah Jane Johnston caused a splash on the opening day of the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles.

Team Ireland got the LA 2015 Games off to a flying start, with Sarah Jane leading the way in the pool as the swimmers claimed a medal treble.

With a large Irish support cheering her on at the University of South Carolina's acquatics centre, the 35-year-old from Lurgan secured Ireland's first medal of the games with a strong swim giving her bronze in the 100m backstroke.

The excitement following the Ripples Special Olympics Club swimmer's success had only just died down when 22-year-old Sean Coleman, from Cork, won silver in the 25m backstroke, just pipping Tallaght's 20-year-old Gary McEnroe, who finished in the bronze medal position in the same race.

On top of the medal successes there were further achievements for the Ireland team with seven personal bests recorded in day one preliminary heats in athletics and swimming.

Shaun Cassidy, regional director, Special Olympics Ulster said: "We are thrilled to hear the news of Team Ireland's success on day one of the World Games.

"Our congratulations go to all of the athletes and particularly Ulster's Sarah Jane Johnston who recorded the first medal win for the team.

"The excitement from Team Ireland volunteers, families and supporters is being felt at home and abroad, with a great buzz building on social media and we invite everyone to join us in cheering on our Team Ireland athletes on as LA2015 continues."

In all there are 12 Ulster athletes in Los Angeles with the Ireland team, competing in seven different sports.

Christopher Kane (Lisburn, 19) and Peter Fitzpatrick (Ballynahinch, 20) are in the five-a side football team, Carole Catling (Newtownabbey, 37), will compete in the table tennis and Kirsty Devlin (Belfast, 20) and Patrick Quinlivan (Letterkenny, 32) have been selected in gymnastics.

In golf, Oliver Doherty (Buncrana, 38) will be joined by Jill Connery (Scarva, 29) and her playing partner Ursula McDonnell (Belfast), who at 71-yeas-old is the oldest member of the team.

Déarbháil Savage (Mowhan, 14) is in the equestrian team, Sean Campbell (Coleraine, 30) will compete in the 10-pin bowling, while Nuala Browne (Strabane, 38) will take part in the kayaking.

Matt English, CEO of Special Olympics Ireland said: "Team Ireland is off to a great start at the World Games.

"We had some fantastic results in the pool and there has also been an array of personal bests as we progress through the preliminary phase of divisioning.

"We are very hopeful for a successful Games and are looking forward to the coming days of competition."

The 40-strong coaching and management team, alongside 155 Team Ireland volunteers, are working at the Games.

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