Mná na hÉireann: Ireland’s Paralympians! (part 2)
Yesterday, as the first of Team Ireland’s athletes competed in London on Day One of the Paralympics, we looked at some of the women in green taking part in the Games.
Here’s the second part of our gander through the women vying for the podium. (Check our Facebook page to find out who’s competing each day!)
Helen Kearney Equestrian (Ind. Championship Test – Grade Ia; Ind. Freestyle Test – Grade Ia; Team Test – Grade Ia; Team Championship) @kearneyhelen
Helen Kearney began riding at age 10 and continued to take part in local show jumping and cross country events despite diagnosis of Fridreichs Ataxia (neuromuscular condition). At 18, she made the switch to dressage and started to compete in Para-Equestrian events.
Kearney made an impressive start in her debut tournament at CPEDI1 in Millfield, England, winning first and third place ribbons in the Novice Test and impressively earning the accolade of “Best International Rider”. Since then, she has enjoyed a string of successes, most notably in 2011, where Kearney won Ireland’s first ever Para-Equestrian medal, securing bronze in the Individual Test at the European Championships in Moorsele, Belgium with a result of 73.10%.
She is also part of a strong Irish Team which won gold in the CPEDI international tournament in Deauville, France (2011 & 2012) and secured a first-ever team qualification for the Paralympic Games.
Kearney is a full time rider but combines this with a part-time placement in Allianz Ireland’s finance department. She has high hopes of continued success at London 2012 with her horse Mister Cool.
— Helen Kearney (@KearneyHelen) August 12, 2012
Mister Cool, taking a rest before Hartpury next week! twitter.com/KearneyHelen/s…
— Helen Kearney (@KearneyHelen) June 29, 2012
Nadine Lattimore Athletics (Women’s Shot Put – F11/12)
Nadine Lattimore is a full-time athlete and Irish record holder in the F11 Shot Put (7.68m).
Lattimore decided to get involved with Paralympic sport after the 2008 Games in Beijing. In her first domestic competition in 2010, she threw the qualification distance for the 2011 IPC World Championships in New Zealand, claiming an impressive 7th place. At this year’s IPC European Championships in Holland, Lattimore continued her progress and finished just outside the medals in 4th place in the F11/12 shot put final.
When Lattimore competes at the Olympic Stadium, she will be accompanied by her guide dog Quartz – the first ever guide dog on the Irish Team.
Even Quartz is ready for the opening ceremony twitter.com/ParalympicsIRE…
— Paralympics Ireland (@ParalympicsIRE) August 29, 2012
Rena McCarron Rooney Table Tennis (Women’s Singles – Class 1-2; Women’s Team – Class 1-3) @RenaRooney
Donegal native Rena McCarron Rooney has been involved in table tennis for 16 years and has enjoyed success at both national and international level. During this time she competed internationally but never qualified for the Paralympics.
Now working as a part-time Sports Development Officer with the Irish Wheelchair Association, Rooney’s dedication has paid off and she is a member of Team Ireland competing at her first Paralympic Games.
Her medal success over the years has been impressive – two individual golds in 2011 at the Copa Tango IX and the Copa Costa Rica and team golds in the Slovenian Open in 2004 and 2005/2006 Irish Opens. Rooney has also competed at the European Championships (2003 and 2011) winning team bronze on both occasions.
She trains at the Kingfisher club in Galway with husband and Irish team-mate Ronan Rooney. Rooney aims to carry her impressive form into the biggest competition of her career.
Francine Meehan Cycling (Road; Track: Women’s Ind. B Pursuit & Women’s Ind.B 1km Time Trial)
Sighted pilot Fran Meehan and her stoker Catherine Walsh (see below) have been in great form over the past two years, becoming Ireland’s most successful Tandem pairing.
Meehan only took up competitive cycling in 2007, with a prior athletics background (she was a college scholar in the USA). The two-times national cyclo-cross champion has proved an ideal partner for Walsh and the pair have enjoyed considerable success since joining up.
In 2011, Meehan and Walsh began their run of championship form with double bronze at the World Paracycling Championships (Track and Road), before claiming gold in the Segovia leg of the 2011 Road World Cup. In 2012, they delivered further with a sensational gold at February’s World Track Championships in LA, backing this up with an unexpected bronze in the tandem sprint.
With a strong road season behind them, they will be aiming for medal success at the Velodrome and Brands Hatch.
Walsh (left) and Meehan (right). Image: Paralympics.ie (detail)
Catherine O’Neill Athletics (Club Throw – F31/32/51; Discus Throw – F51/52/53)
Wexford’s Catherine O’Neill is one of Ireland’s most experienced field-event athletes, and a current world Discus champion. She will make her third appearance at the Paralympics, having competed in Discus at Sydney 2000 (fourth) and Beijing 2008 (sixth).
Winning Discus gold as far back as 1998’s IPC World Championships, Catherine’s claimed another gold in that event and silver in the Club Throw at 2011’s World Championships in Christchurch. These impressive performances demonstrated her enduring ability to deliver world-class performances.
Away from training and competition, Catherine has worked to promote involvement in disability sport in Waterford. With Club silver in June’s IPC European Championships, her many fans and supporters will be hoping that she can win another championship medal in London’s Olympic Stadium.
Geraldine Savage Equestrian (Ind. Championship & Freestyle Test – Grade Ia; Team Test – Grade Ia & Championship)
Geraldine (or Gerry) Savage has been involved with horses for much of her life and with para-equestrian dressage since 2008.
Now living in York, Savage competes regularly in UK para-equestrian championships. With her horse, Blues Tip Top Too, she won the British Dressage National Championships in 2008, the British Dressage Spring Championships and was RDA National Champion in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Savage has also been successful when competing for Ireland. In 2011′s European Para-Equestrian Championships in Belgium, she rode with distinction and picked up two top-ten individual placings. She is also part of a strong Irish Equestrian Team which won gold in the CPEDI international tournament in Deauville, France in 2011 and 2012.
Savage will aim to replicate this good form when she competes in the individual and team events at her first Paralympic Games in London. Outside of her sport, she devotes her time to her family – a self-professed “Domestic Engineer”.
Catherine Walsh Cycling (Road: Ind. B Road Race & Ind. B Time Trial; Track: Ind. B Pursuit & Ind.B 1km Time Trial)
Hailing from Swords, Co. Dublin, Catherine Walsh experienced success as a track and field athlete in five previous Paralympic Games between 1992 and 2004, winning bronze in the pentathlon at Sydney 2000.
In 2007, she changed sport to tandem cycling and made her mark quickly enough to gain selection to Beijing 2008. Walsh became Ireland’s first paracycling medal winner when powering to silver at the 2009 World Track Championships with sighted pilot Fran Meehan (see above).
With subsequent bronze medals at both UCI World Championships in 2011 (Track and Road) and a sensational gold in the 3km Individual Pursuit at February’s World Track Championships in LA, the pair will be among the favourites at London 2012.
In addition to their favoured Pursuit event, Walsh and Meehan will compete in three other events at the Games: the 1km Time Trial on the Olympic Velodrome track, and the Road Race and Time Trial at Brands Hatch.
Walsh (left) and Meehan (right) on track. Image: Paralympics.ie (detail)
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