Belfast Telegraph

Smyth and McKillop tipped for more golden times in Rio

By Stuart McKinley

Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop will defend their Paralympic titles in September after having their selection on the Ireland team for Rio confirmed.

The team of 44 athletes, which will compete in nine different sports, was announced at Dublin's City Hall and Glengormley-man McKillop and Smyth, from Eglinton, will be the main gold medal hopes once again.

McKillop is a double Paralympic champion, having won the 800m (T37) at both Beijing in 2008 and London 2012. He added the 1500m gold to his list of successes four years ago.

Smyth has dominated the T13 sprint events at the last two Paralympics, taking gold in the 100m and 200m in Beijing and London. He was just 0.04 seconds short of the qualifying time for the 2012 Olympics.

In addition to Smyth and McKillop there are three reigning world champions (athletics and cycling) in the team.

It is in the women's discus where Ireland will be most fancied to pick up medals, with three leading contenders in different categories.

World Championship silver medallist and European discus champion (F57) Orla Barry also bought home a bronze medal from London 2012.

Noelle Lenihan also won a European discus gold (F38) and she will now be fancied to be in medal contention having also taken silver in the World Championships.

European record holder Niamh McCarthy (F41) will, like Lenihan, compete at a Paralympic Games for the first time, but she has a strong pedigree having won bronze at last year's World Championships.

Despite being only 21 years old, Dublin swimmer Ellen Keane will be attending her third Paralympic Games. Twenty-two-year-old James Scully will be at his second Games.

"Team announcement day is a major milestone on Paralympic Ireland's road To Rio," said Chef de Mission for the Irish Team, Denis Toomey.

"Qualifications and selections are complete and today we announce those athletes who will represent Ireland at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

"As Chef de Mission it has been both and honour and a privilege to be tasked with telling the nation who the lucky athletes are and I certainly look forward to leading them all to Rio for the Games."

Ireland will compete in canoeing for the first time and it is also hoped that there will be Irish athletes in para-triathlon, with the qualification window scheduled to close later this month.

Belfast Telegraph


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