Two local athletes have jetted off to Abu Dhabi to take part in the Special Olympics 2019.
Shannon Nixon (21) from Coalisland, will represent Team Ireland in athletics and Richard Currie (23) from Dungannon, will compete in bocce have joined
19 other athletes from the Ulster region including Siobhan McKay (27) from Strabane and Lee Mitchell (21) from Omagh.
Making up the 91-strong Team Ireland, the County Tyrone sportsmen and women are among over 7,000 athletes from 170 countries competing at World Summer Games at 12 different Olympic style sports.
The World Summer Games starts this Thursday, March 14 to 21 and will be the largest sporting and humanitarian event in the world this year.
Team Ireland athletes began their journey to Abu Dhabi last weekend and excitement was in the air at Dublin Airport as they boarded their flight, with dreams of success in their various sports.
Supported by a volunteer management team of 39, Team Ireland have a wealth of community support as well as 350 family and friends also making the trip.
Shaun Cassidy, Regional Director, Special Olympics Ulster said: “It is wonderful to see so many of our local athletes being selected to represent Team Ireland at the Special Olympics World Summer Games. Since LA2015, we have increased the number of Team Ireland athletes from the Ulster region from 12 to 21 athletes and we are extremely proud of the hard work and determination displayed in their preparations to represent Team Ireland on an international stage.
“We feel an immense sense of pride as they depart on the journey of a lifetime to Abu Dhabi and would encourage people across Ulster to join us and get behind our athletes and the whole of Team Ireland over the next few weeks, sharing their well wishes and messages of support on social media.”
The Co Tyrone athletes join 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.
Team Ireland will prepare for their World Games experience with a visit to Dubai as part of the Host Town programme. During this time, the athletes have an opportunity to acclimatise to their surroundings with a range of cultural events and activities before the official Opening Ceremony on Thursday.
The Opening Ceremony, which will take place at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City Stadium, is set to be a spectacular celebration of humanity at its best. More than 40,000 spectators will witness 170 nations take place in a celebratory parade, with the athletes being accompanied by a number of international celebrities including singer and Special Olympics Global Ambassador, Nicole Scherzinger.
Matt English, CEO Special Olympics Ireland added: “I am extremely proud of each and every one of our athletes who will represent Special Olympics Ireland at the 2019 World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi. Each of these athletes has demonstrated dedication, discipline and skill in their various sports in order to reach this level of sporting competition, and that itself is worthy of celebration. They are paving the way for the nearly 8,000 Special Olympics athletes training in clubs across Ireland. They are all winners in our eyes, and it is a remarkable achievement not only for the athletes, but also for their coaches, families and volunteers.”
To keep up to date with Team Ireland’s preparations for the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi, follow Special Olympics Ireland and Special Olympics Ulster on Twitter, @SOIreland and @SO_Ulster and Facebook, facebook.com/SpecialOlympicsIreland and Facebook.com/SpecialOlympicsUlster and follow the hashtags, #TeamIreland and #PlayYourPart.