LIMERICK’S only athlete to compete at the Special Olympic World Games in LA has been named the person of the month after bringing home two bronze medals and three place ribbons for her remarkable efforts.
“Oh, it was a dream come true, really it was,” the 22-year-old gymnast smiled this Monday when she was presented with her award at the Clarion Hotel.
Such was her joy on receiving her crystal award which was engraved with her name, the bubbly athlete hugged her sister Erin tightly. “It was a great honour to represent Limerick on the Irish team. It was like a miracle happened. I am inspired by the whole thing,” continued Ashleigh.
Ashleigh, who hails from Derryhasna, O’Brien’s Bridge, Co Limerick, was among 88 people from across the 32 counties who competed in various events in the City of Angels in late July and early August.
As well as flying the flag for Limerick and Ireland, Ashleigh, who is a gymnast with Lisnagry Special Olympics Club, was also doing all her teammates at the Limerick club proud.
And when she was not competing in the games Ashleigh was rubbing shoulders with A-list Hollywood stars including actor Colin Farrell and former Pussycat Dolls star Nicole Scherzinger.
Despite all the glitz and glam, Ashleigh’s proudest moment was winning her medals after all her hard work. “I’m really proud to represent Limerick. The Special Olympics is very important. It has given me confidence every step of the way. I’ve made loads of friends,” she explained.
Cheering Ashleigh on in LA were her parents Brian and Philomena and sister Erin, who also accompanied her at the Clarion Hotel for the award presentation. Her other two sisters, Dawn and Leanne, followed her progress from home.
On returning to her native city, Ashleigh was greeted with whoops of delight and warms cheers by family, friends – and even some tourists – when she posed for photos at the city landmark, the Treaty Stone.
Ashleigh is keen to thank everyone who has helped her on her journey to LA which began many years ago.
“I want to thank everyone who supported me through thick and thin – my family and my friends, the Williams Syndrome Association and my trainers Dorothy Kavanagh, Susan Kenny and Regina O’Reilly in the Daughters of Charity, St Vincent’s Centre, Lisnagry. I want to thank everyone who helped me in Lisnagry and everyone who did fundraising events like coffee mornings. I’m glad for my family, myself and my three godchildren,” she added.
It was also announced this week that Ashleigh is to be honoured with a civic reception in the coming weeks.
The Limerick Person of the Month award is sponsored by the Limerick Leader, media agency Southern, and the Clarion Hotel.