Team Ireland returned home to a heroes’ welcome after a spectacular performance at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in LA.

  • Athletes bring home a grand total of 82 medals (*please note: revised tally)
  • The medal haul breaks down into: 26 Gold, 28 Silver, 28 Bronze, 41 placement ribbons
  • Team Ireland also notched up 31 individual personal bests as athletes shone in the Californian sun
  • Medals claimed in all 12 sports featuring Irish athletes
  • Ulster Team Ireland athletes clinch 19 medals and 9 Placement Ribbons

Team Ireland received a rapturous welcome from hundreds of family members, friends and supporters who gathered in Dublin Airport to applaud them, following their outstanding performances at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games.

Team Ireland were greeted by family, friends, supporters and well-wishers as they touched down in Dublin Airport. The 88 Team Ireland athletes were cheered loudly as they made their way into the arrivals hall. There may well have been extra baggage for the team’s official airline Aer Lingus to accommodate as the athletes brought home with them an impressive overall haul of 82 medals, along with an array of placement ribbons.

The team was led into the arrivals hall by the Aer Lingus crew who flew the team home, and Special Olympics CEO, Matt English.

In a statement, Sports Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín said: “This has been a highly successful Games for Team Ireland and I congratulate all the athletes on their efforts. They have done everyone proud and I also commend their coaches, their families and the many volunteers who have worked collectively to make events such as this possible.

“Team Ireland performed strongly throughout the Games, securing medals from day one right through to the end. Overall the team won 26 gold, 28 silver and 28 bronze medals, as well as 41 placement ribbons. Team Ireland athletes also recorded 31 personal bests, meaning they truly brought their ‘A’ game when it counted.

“The 88 Team Ireland participants and their amazing efforts in Los Angeles are an inspiration to everyone in society.”

The Minister made particular reference to the athletes from Special Olympics Ulster that are part of Team Ireland. She said: “Each of the 12 Special Olympics Ulster athletes who participated put in great performances and between them won an amazing 19 medals. Sarah Jane Johnston from Lurgan had the honour of winning Ireland’s first medal of the Games when she took bronze in the 100m backstroke swimming competition, before taking a further bronze on day two, while Belfast gymnast Kirsty Devlin was the first Team Ireland competitor to secure gold. Kirsty won two gold and two silver medals in total, while 15-year-old equestrian competitor Déarbháil Savage from Mowhan, County Armagh – the team’s youngest participant – won two gold medals and one silver.

“Carole Catling from Newtownabbey won gold in the table tennis and Nuala Browne of Strabane took double silver in the kayaking. Golfers Jill Connery of Scarva, Ursula McDonnell of Belfast secured a silver medal, as did Oliver Doherty of Buncrana. And completing the medal haul from the Special Olympics Ulster squad were Coleraine 10 pin bowler Sean Campbell with silver and Patrick Quinlivan of Letterkenny who took an amazing silver and  three bronze medals in gymnastics.

“I and my Department are committed to inclusivity and a culture of lifelong enjoyment and success in sport. It is for people of all abilities and ages and I trust that the wonderful achievements of these athletes will inspire more people, particularly from under-represented groups, to see the value and benefits of participation in sport and physical recreation.”

The curtains came down on the 2015 World Games on Sunday 2 August with a closing ceremony at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum featuring appearances by singer songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen and Victoria Arlen, Paralympic gold medallist. Team Ireland competed in 12 different Olympic style sports during the Games. Their selection to Team Ireland came after four years of training and competition.

Speaking in the wake of what was a hugely successful World Games, Special Olympics CEO Matt English said: “So much work goes into preparing a team for competition on the World sporting stage. Team Ireland put a huge amount of effort into their training schedule in advance of these Games and they certainly reaped the rewards in Los Angeles. So many of our athletes recorded personal best performances as well as medal wins and we are equally proud of all of our athletes regardless of whether they return home with medals or not. The overall results of the Team are testament to the hard work and dedication of both the athletes and their coaches. I applaud each and every member of Team Ireland and congratulate them on their outstanding sporting achievements.”

Shaun Cassidy, regional director, Special Olympics Ulster said: “We are so proud to welcome our inspirational Team Ireland athletes home to a true heroes’ welcome today. There will be great celebration and tears of joy as the athletes return to their hometowns and communities, where they will realise the full weight of their achievements. Their determination, hard work and commitment has now paid off and it’s great to see them getting recognition for their success. We send our best wishes to each and every one of the Team Ireland athletes and in particular, our local Ulster athletes who have made us so exceptionally proud over the last 10 days. We also thank the incredible coaches and volunteers who played such a vital role in the Games and were an incredible support to the athletes.”

An 88 strong Team Ireland – including 12 Ulster athletes competed in 12 different Olympic style sports over the last 10 days. Their selection comes after four years of training and competition.

Twelve local Special Olympics Ulster athletes competed in the Special Olympics World Summer Games, Los Angeles 2015 (LA2015) as part of Team Ireland: Christopher Kane, aged 19, from Lisburn and Peter Fitzpatrick, aged 20 from Ballynahinch, Co. Down (5-a side football); Carole Catling, aged 37 from Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim (table tennis); Kirsty Devlin, aged 20 from Belfast and Patrick Quinlivan, aged 32 from Letterkenny, Co. Donegal (gymnastics); Oliver Doherty, aged 38 from Buncrana, Co. Donegal, Jill Connery, aged 29 from Scarva, Co. Armagh & playing partner, Ursula McDonnell, aged 71 from Belfast (all golf); Sarah Jane Johnston, aged 35 from Lurgan, Co. Armagh (aquatics); Déarbháil Savage, aged 14 from Mowhan, Co. Armagh (equestrian); Sean Campbell, aged 30 from Coleraine (ten pin bowling); and Nuala Browne, aged 38 from Strabane, Co. Tyrone (kayaking).

A 40-strong coaching and management team supported the athletes in Los Angeles, with 155 Team Ireland volunteers working at the Games. Over 300 family members also made the trip to the World Games to support Team Ireland athletes.