Some of Northern Ireland’s most talented young athletes gathered yesterday (Sunday 20th August) for a Team NI orientation event before they travel to England to compete at the 2017 UK School Games.

The Games, which take place in Loughborough from 31August – 3 September, will see over 150 elite school-age athletes from Northern Ireland compete with teams from England, Scotland and Wales in eleven Olympic and Paralympic sports.

The orientation event, organized by Sport Northern Ireland in conjunction with Ulster University School of Sport, saw Team NI come together as a team for the first time. Attendees took part in a series of teambuilding activities with their fellow athletes, and also underwent an anti-doping workshop delivered by Sport NI’s ‘Pure Winner’ education officers.

2017 School Games Orientation Day - AntiDoping

The day also included an athlete Q&A event involving local elite athletes, with para-badminton champion Niall McVeigh, Northern Ireland netballer Noleen Lennon and wheelchair basketball player James MacSorley discussing their careers and sporting experiences.

2017 School Games Orientation Day - Athlete Q&A

The 2017 UK School Games will be the largest multisport event taking place in Europe this year, with around 1,600 athletes and 700 coaches due to take part. The event, organized by the Youth Sport Trust and supported by the National Lottery, aims to create an inspirational and motivational setting for elite young sports people to thrive and perform.

Speaking at the event, Sport NI Board Member Kyle Ferguson commented:

“Sport Northern Ireland is delighted to be supporting Team NI athletes to participate in the UK School Games. We are committed to helping more of our local athletes compete and win at the highest levels and the School Games are an important stepping stone for our young sporting talent. Stars such as Adam Peaty, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and our own Bethany Firth are among previous School Games’ alumni, which is a reflection of the standard on show at the event. Since the Games started in 2006, Team Northern Ireland athletes have won over 200 medals, and having seen the spirit and dedication of the athletes and coaches here today, I am confident we can look forward to even more success this year.”

2017 School Games Orientation Day - Teambuilding

Supporting the Orientation Event are Ulster University School of Sport – Dr Gavin Breslin, Head of School, commented prior to the event:

“We in the School of Sport are delighted to be part of the build up to the 2017 School Games, and to welcome Team NI’s athletes to the Jordanstown campus. Our current student cohort from programmes within the School from the Jordanstown and Magee campuses will be leading on team building activities during the orientation event, to assist in the bonding process within and between the eleven sports that make up Team NI.  On behalf of Ulster University and in particular the School of Sport, I would like to thank the Youth Sport Trust and Sport Northern Ireland for this opportunity to be involved in one of the largest sporting competitions for young athletes in recent times.  We would like to wish all competitors well for the UK event in September and look forward to seeing them excel on the Olympic, Paralympic or Commonwealth stages in the years to come and becoming prospective students here at Ulster”.