Two gold, one silver & two bronze medals plus World & European records for Irish at European Championships
As the final day of the IPC Athletics European Championships drew to a close in Grosseto, Italy this evening, it was certainly a time of celebration for the Irish para-athletics squad who will be returning home to Dublin Airport on Friday night with two gold, one silver and two bronze medals along with a new World Record, a new European Record and a number of Personal Best times and distances.
“It has been a wonderful championships for the team,” Para-Athletics Team Manager James Nolan reflected. “To travel out with eight athletes - a mixture of established and development athletes - and to return with five podium finishes is exceptional. The manner in which they achieved the performances was even more impressive - the composure, confidence and execution were very enjoyable to observe.
“The para-athletics team has been on a progressive journey for the last four years and now, the results speak for themselves as we really make a major impact when we arrive at major championships with our team of elite athletes and staff."
“Looking ahead to Rio, it is going to be exciting and challenging. There is a lot of competition for selection and with the continued support of Sport Ireland, the IIS and Allianz, this team will make a big impact in Rio and beyond.”
Indeed, after what has truly been an action-packed week, which saw Deirdre Mongan get the medal winning underway on Day 1 (Saturday, June 11th) when she won bronze in the F53/54 Shot Put final, the squad will certainly have a lot to look back on when they finally return home to the Emerald Isle.
“It feels brilliant to be coming home with a bronze medal,” Mongan stated. “It was great to get in a good performance in a major competition so close to Rio. I wasn’t too nervous going into the event, as training has been going really well the last few weeks."
“I was happy with how it went, but I would have loved to have thrown a Personal Best distance. My next hope now is to get selected on the Irish team going to Rio,” she added. "Thanks to my coaches and all the support staff, my husband and family for everything - I couldn't do any of this without their support."
Day 2 (Sunday, June 12th) brought even more success as Noelle Lenihan struck gold in the F38 Discus final with an incredible throw of 32.14m to set a new World Record.
Speaking about her performance, the talented 16-year-old stated: “I was overjoyed and very proud to secure a gold European medal and to represent my country on the international stage once again."
“This was only my second international competition and I was very proud to be there. I wasn’t nervous leading up to, or during, my competition as I am just doing what I love to do and you have to enjoy yourself doing it. I was pleased with increasing my World Record as it was my best international performance previously and just shows that I am improving and the hard work is paying off.
“I am going to keep training hard and also vary my competitions throughout the summer to build up my experience and confidence. Thanks to all my friends, family, coaches and staff for their work in turning me into the person I am today and the best possible version of myself for the future."
"Thanks too to Paralympics Ireland for giving me the opportunity to compete in these competitions and to Milford Community Council, Charleville Park Hotel and to North Cork AC who started me off in the world of athletics and this sport – one that I love so much and has given me so much happiness.”
Conor McIlveen was also in action on Day 2 in the final of the T38 1,500m and finished sixth in an extremely fast-paced race in a time of 4.45.89, while Dublin’s Heather Jameson received a NM (no mark) due to foul jumps in the T37 Long Jump final.
Moving on to Day 3 and there was yet another gold medal to celebrate when Orla Barry placed top of the podium after an incredible throw of 31.18m in the F57 Discus final.
“I am delighted to be coming home with a gold medal and even happier to have thrown a Personal Best,” the Cork athlete stated. “To be over 31m is massive for me and a great boost for my confidence for the months ahead.
“I felt great going into my competition, I didn’t feel nervous because my preparations had been going well and I was happy with how training was going. I’m going to go home now and plan the next few months out with my coaches and hopefully get to Rio where I’d aim to throw even better,” she continued.
“I have a great team of people behind me – Pat Furlong, Dave Sweeney, Tom Comyns, Paralympics Ireland and Sport Ireland, who all help me get to where I want to be.”
Next up, it was the turn of Niamh McCarthy and Greta Streimikyte who both competed on Day 5 of the tournament (Wednesday, June 15th) and added yet more medals to Ireland’s collection.
Niamh was first up in the F40/41 Discus final and absolutely smashed her Personal Best distance to set a new European Record and claim a silver medal with a distance of 27.05m.
“I am thrilled to be coming home with a silver medal from my very first European Championships. I narrowly missed out on a gold medal due to it being a combined event, but I am still ranked 1st in Europe in my classification which is all that matters to me.
“My competition day was exactly as expected and everything went to plan. I felt very relaxed going in as I was confident in my performance in the week leading up to it. I knew I had work to do once in the cage but I felt I had done everything possible to prepare."
“It feels amazing to have broken the European record again and although my goal was to PB, I never imagined I would extend it so much, I'm still stunned! My hopes now are to really fine-tune my training and focus on building on what I have achieved over here. I am ranked 3rd in the world again which gives me great confidence and I am now driven to push myself even further.
“I want to thank everyone in Paralympics Ireland, especially those who have made my transition to Dublin easier, and everyone in Cork who have always been behind me, especially my coach, John McCarthy,” she finished.
Meanwhile, Greta Streimikyte – who was making her debut for Ireland at a major championships – was up in the evening time in the T13 1,500m final and raced extremely well in a tough field to win bronze in a time of 4.54.25.
"I am so happy with my achievement and receiving a bronze medal as well as standing on the podium for the very first time!" Greta said. "Before the competition it was all about preparing and focusing on the race. I was nervous and excited at the same time as it was my first time racing for Ireland at a major Championships."
"It was a brilliant opportunity to compete against top athletes, and it was an amazing feeling to be competing for Ireland for the very first time and I was really, really proud and happy to be wearing a green vest on the start line.
"I'm going to keep focusing on training for the next few months, and thanks must go to my friends, family, coach Enda Fitzpatrick, Eimear O'Brien and Paralympics Ireland for all of their support."
Finally, Day 6 (Thursday, June 16th), saw some more solid performances from the squad. This time it was another newcomer Conor McIlveen who was flying the flag high, running a fantastic new PB time of 2.13.37 in the T38 800m final to place fourth.
“Coming home with a three-second PB is a fantastic feeling,” he said afterwards. “I’m very proud of how much I’ve improved over the season – today was a great day for running. It was a competitive race and gave me the opportunity to show what I can do. I felt a bit nervous going in, but I felt I could be competitive in my class and against the best in Europe."
"I hope to work hard in the coming months to improve on the fantastic experience from here. Thanks to Paralympics Ireland for giving me the opportunity to compete at the European Championships, to all the staff for their help and expertise, to my family for making the trip over here and everyone at home who has supported me, especially my coach, Malcolm McCausland, for everything he has done for me.”
Lorraine Regan was last up for the Irish on Thursday evening in the F56 Javelin final and threw a distance of 16.16m to finish fifth in an extremely competitive event to finish off a hugely successful Championships for the Irish.
The Irish para-athletics team will return to Dublin on Friday, June 17th. They are scheduled to fly in on flight number EI0404 and land at 23.10 in Terminal 2, Dublin Airport.
However, please be advised there appears to be some strike issues in Rome so this time may be subject to change.
The Irish athletics team is proudly sponsored by Allianz, an official partner of Paralympics Ireland.