Special Olympics: Team Ireland wins first golds of games thanks to gym star Kirsty Devlin
There was a gold, silver and bronze rush for Team Ireland on Day Three of the Special Olympics in Los Angeles.
Gymnasts were the heroes of the day as they collected medal after medal, including the country’s first gold of the Games.
Eleven medals were shared by three Irish gymnasts who all basked in the glory of their achievements at an outdoor award ceremony.
The first two days of action were very much focused on the swimming pool for Team Ireland but with an increasing number of athletes now reaching the final stages of their competition the medals came fast.
Kirsty Devlin (21) from Belfast won the first gold in the the Rope competition in Gymnastics Rhythmic Level 1 at the University of California.
She went on to take a second gold, two silver and a fourth place ribbon in various gymnastic disciplines.
Her mother Elizabeth cried as she watched her daughter walk onto the podium time and time again.
“I’m absolutely so proud – the tears were in my eyes, watching Kirsty. She’s just amazing. The whole family is so proud of her,” she said.
“ There are four of us out here in LA supporting Kirsty – myself, my brother and his wife and my son. She’ll be a celebrity when she gets home – everyone will shake her hand and congratulate her. They all love her back in Belfast. Everyone loves her.”
Limerick gymnast Ashleigh O’Hagan (21) stunned Miriam O’Callaghan on her Saturday Night chat show when she talked about her wish to meet Hugh Hefner in the LA.
However, the 21-year-old got what she really came yesterday with two bronze medals and three place ribbons.
“It’s absolutely fantastic and a great achievement. I’m proud as punch,” she told independent.ie.
The day at the gym was rounded off with Aoife O’Sullivan from Cork City winning one gold and two bronze medals, as well as two place ribbons.
Away from gym there was more medal success with Peter Malynn (57) taking gold in a tense final of the singles bocce competition, which is a ball sport similar to bowls.
The final score in his match was 9-7 and the Mullingar man was thrilled with the outcome.
The Team Ireland bowling squad also took bronze in the Doubles event with Martina Walsh from Castlebar, Co. Mayo and Ruth Geerah from Mullingar, Co. Westmeath.
Meanwhile the 11-a-side footballers had a famous fan in their corner as they took on Bangladesh in their first group game.
Team Ireland ambassador Robbie Keane delivered a pre-match pep talk before an undeserved 4-1 loss. “The scoreline didn’t do the lads justice. They are obviously disappointed but it’s important they pick themselves back up now,” Keane told independent.ie afterwards.
Commenting on Team Ireland’s day at LA2015, Matt English, CEO Special Olympics Ireland said: "Day three has been exceptional and very exciting for Team Ireland, with our athletes continuing to put in great performances across all 12 sports.
“ It’s fantastic to secure the first gold medals and the excitement is palpable both here in LA and at home. The atmosphere in every venue has been fantastic and the travelling Irish support is certainly helping our athletes rise to the occasion. I know that everyone at home is cheering on every medal and personal best and joining us in celebrating this fantastic event.”