Rachel Creevey
Tue, 26 Jul 2016
Para Sport Expo
Panel of Paralympians

Para Sport Expo

It’s been a bit of a sporty summer, hasn’t it? We’ve only just said goodbye to the Euros and now we’ve got the Olympics and the Paralympics just around the corner. Probably not your ideal summer viewing if you’re not a sport lover, like me, but it was hard not to enjoy the sporty vibe at the Para Sport Expo in the IWA Clontarf last Friday, the 22nd July

There was a great attendance at the event which gave anyone with a physical disability, of any age, the opportunity to learn about the different para sports in Ireland and how to get involved in them

Representatives from a number of different sports clubs/bodies manned information stands around the sports hall and were there to answer any questions a budding athlete might have.

There was also the opportunity to try your hand at some of the sports – with demonstrations of wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball, para badminton and seated volleyball scheduled to take place throughout the morning.

The Expo finished with a Q&A session hosted by IWA’s John Fulham. On the panel were Denis Toomey, Chef de Mission of the 2016 Irish Paralympic Team; along with Paul Keogan and Declan Slevin, two members of the Irish Paralympic Team.

For Paul, an athletics athlete, and Declan, a hand cyclist, it will be their first Games whilst Denis Toomey (who was Para-Cycling manager at the 2008 and 2012 Games) and John Fulham (who has competed in the Games in the past and will now lead Paralympics Ireland media services team in Rio) have plenty of experience when it comes to the Paralympics.

Paul and Declan, who have acquired disabilities, told the audience how they started playing their respective sports and spoke about how it opened up a new world of possibilities for them.

All four athletes on the panel spoke about how their circle of friends and ‘family’ have grown because of their involvement in sport

When asked what the Irish team were hoping to achieve at the Games, Denis said the team has a goal of 8 medals but himself, Declan and Paul were quick to point out that the athletes focus is on performance not medals

Would the guys on the panel have any advice for any budding athletes in the audience, John asked.

They all agreed that training to be at that level takes a huge amount of focus and training. But you should also take time to enjoy the experience and the unique position you’ve found yourself in.

Declan (who had been speaking to youngsters at the paracycling stand during the day) encouraged anyone who had tried out a sport during the day, to pursue it further when they got home – not to just mark it down as a one-day experience!