NINETEEN-years-old Lisburn athlete Sarah-Louise Rea has been included in a 91-strong Team Ireland squad announced for the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games which take place in March.
Sarah is one of five Co. Antrim athletes to make the squad after putting in an impressive performance at the Special Olympics Ireland Games in Dublin last summer to win gold in badminton and she will also be making her World Games debut in Abu Dhabi.
The road to Abu Dhabi started four years ago but this week the final preparations began in earnest for the local Special Olympics athletes, with the official launch of Team Ireland for the 2019 World Games.
Taking place between March 14th-21st, Abu Dhabi 2019 will be the largest sporting and humanitarian event in the world this year. Supported by a volunteer management team of 39, Team Ireland will join 7,000 Special Olympics athletes from 170 countries at the Games.
The other Co. Antrim athletes who will represent Team Ireland in Basketball with Faye Boyd (29), Grace Hamilton (27), Sara Shivas (23) and Sarah Thorne (24), all from Antrim Town, and members of Antrim Borough Special Olympics Club, set to storm the courts in Abu Dhabi.
The Co. Antrim athletes will be joined by fellow Team Ireland athletes from right across the island of Ireland, who will compete in a total of 12 sports: athletics, badminton, basketball, bocce, bowling, equestrian, football, golf, gymnastics, kayaking, swimming and table tennis.
Supporters and sponsors caught up with the athletes for the official launch of the squad on Friday night in Dublin, ahead of their last residential Team Ireland training session this weekend. The 91 athletes travelled to Dublin to train together and ensure that they are ready to take on their biggest sporting challenge yet.
Emma McMenamin is Head of Delegation for Team Ireland at Abu Dhabi 2019 and commenting on the Team’s preparations, she said: “These athletes are extremely focused and determined and like any athlete facing into a major competition, they are putting 100% into their training.
“It was great to see how excited the athletes are to be part of this huge event. To represent Team Ireland and compete on the world stage in Abu Dhabi is a big honour and one these Special Olympics athletes are not taking lightly.”
Special Olympics Ireland is first and foremost a sports organisation and charity that supports children and adults with intellectual disabilities, right across the island of Ireland. As the countdown to the World Games gets under way, the organisation is calling on the business community and individuals in Northern Ireland to help raise much-needed funds to send the athletes to Abu Dhabi. To cover the cost of sending Team Ireland to the Games, Special Olympics needs to raise just over £4,445 per athlete.
For further information about Team Ireland and the ‘Support an Athlete’ programme, visit www.specialolympics.ie