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Sunday 17 November 2019

Special Olympians try tai chi to keep their focus on medals

Sarah-Louise Rea in action at the Special Olympics. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Sarah-Louise Rea in action at the Special Olympics. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Ireland's Special Olympics athletes are focusing their minds by practising tai chi during breaks from competition.

The Chinese martial art has been introduced across the board for all our athletes.

The benefits were there for all to see in Abu Dhabi's Adnec Arena, where badminton star Sarah-Louise Rea (19) has been swatting aside all before her.

Tears

The Lisburn athlete made light work of her Singaporean opponent Keryn Chin Zhi Xin yesterday to leave her mum Sharon Rea nearly in tears.

Sharon was given a nudge by her daughter to pull herself together, with the teenager telling her: "No crying."

Pupils from ICS Abu Dhabi on a St Patrick’s Day field trip to cheer on Team Ireland in the basketball
Pupils from ICS Abu Dhabi on a St Patrick’s Day field trip to cheer on Team Ireland in the basketball

Sarah-Louise said her success was all about "making my family proud".

During the break between sets, Sarah-Louise could be seen putting tai chi to work with coach Kim McCrave, using what is called a ball system.

"It's about crossing the mid-line of the body, making all the sensory aspects come into focus and really using it as a calming tool, as well as getting ourselves focused and ready," said Kim.

"Passion comes in both ways, when you're up and when you're so down, so when we're able to refocus her when she's down and get that focus back quick, it's essential to her game."

While the medals continued to roll in on day three, so did the support for Team Ireland, in particular from local expats.

Irish teachers James Balmer, Caoimhe Nig Aoife and Lisa Quinn Kilcoyne managed to bring hundreds of their pupils from ICS Abu Dhabi on a St Patrick's Day field trip and taught them some Irish chants along the way.

"Go east, go west, Ireland is the best" and "Team Ireland" were chanted out loud by the Emirati children as they watched their adopted nation in the basketball.

Fabulous

Later in the day, a raft of medals flooded in for the team in artistic gymnastics, with Laura Rumball, Kellie O'Donnell and Lisa Redmond among the big winners.

Explaining how it all felt, Laura (22) said it was "fabulous" as she showed off two silver medals along with a fourth and fifth place.

In the style of a true performer, she even managed to do the floss dance on the podium.

Team Ireland's medal haul yesterday was 21 - 10 golds, eight silvers and three bronzes - with 13 of the total won by the gymnasts.

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