NI return for winning Winter Olympians

Published Friday, 08 February 2013
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Three of Northern Ireland's athletes have returned home from the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in South Korea with an impressive haul of gold, silver and bronze medals.

NI return for winning Winter Olympians
Gold medallist Rosalind Connolly on the slopes at the 2013 Winter Olympics. (© Ray McManus/Sportsfile)

Local skiers Rosalind Connolly, Ryan Hill and Lucy Best impressed on the slopes of PyeongChang.

Rosalind, 17 and from Portadown in Co Armagh, was only competing on the world stage - and real snow - for the first time, yet still managed to take gold in the novice final of the Super G event.

She also placed sixth in the novice final of the Giant Slalom.

Seasoned competitor Ryan, 34 and from Richhill in Co Armagh, skied off with two silver medals - coming second in the intermediate finals of both the Super G event and the Giant Slalom.

He also narrowly missed out on a podium finish in the intermediate Men's Slalom, coming fourth.

The latest victories bring his career tally to seven medals across three the Special Olympics World Winter Games, having competed in Japan in 2005 and Idaho in 2009.

Lisburn's Lucy, 21, also fared well in the weekend's action as she made her international debut - winning two bronze medals in the intermediate finals of the Super G event and Giant Slalom.

She also secured a fourth place ribbon in the intermediate Women's Slalom event.

The talents, skills and dedication of the athletes of the Special Olympics reminds us what the World Games are really about - all participants are winners in their fight for respect, inclusion and unity.

Nick Harkness, Sport Northern Ireland

The trio's wins bring Team Ireland's total tally at the 2013 Games to 12 medals and their coach and everyone at Special Olympics Ulster have expressed their pride.

Coach Jill Sloan put the skiers through their paces on dry slopes in Craigavon - as well as on real snow at the Special Olympics Snow Camp in Austria - before travelling with them to South Korea.

"Rosalind, Ryan and Lucy's medal wins are testament to their hard work, dedication and talents. I am very proud of what the three athletes have accomplished," she said.

"Competing for Team Ireland at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games is an incredible honour for our Ulster athletes - it has given them a unique opportunity to travel to South Korea to embrace the Olympic ideal."

Regional director of Special Olympics Ulster, Shaun Cassidy, added: "We are extremely proud of each of the skiers and are thrilled that all of our Ulster athletes have secured wins on the world stage.

"Having our Ulster skiers compete and win at the Games is a great start to 2013 and a tremendous boost to our other Special Olympic athletes across Ulster.

"We hope that everyone will join us in congratulating Ulster's Rosalind, Ryan and Lucy and Team Ireland on their tremendous success."

The 2013 Games are the 10th Special Olympics World Winter Games, bringing together over 3,300 athletes from 112 countries.

The skiers returned to a special homecoming reception at Craigavon Civic Centre.

© UTV News
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