AFTER TWO weeks in sun-soaked LA, Limerick’s Olympic athlete, Ashleigh O’Hagan, arrived back to a rainy Limerick city this Wednesday lunchtime - and there’s no other place she’d rather have been.
The 21-year-old gymnast, who was the only Limerick athlete to compete at the Special Olympic World Games, 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, who hails from Derryhasna, O’Brien’s Bridge, Co Limerick, was among the 88 people from across the 32 counties who competed in various events in the City of Angels over the past two weeks.
Golden girl Ashleigh flew the flag for Limerick with pride - bringing home two bronze medals and three place ribbons for her remarkable efforts.
After touching down to a rapturous reception in Dublin Airport on Tuesday, the Olympic athlete returned to her Limerick home and her own warm bed where she slept for 14 hours straight with the medals hanging proudly around her neck.
“I definitely needed more sleep than I thought,” smiled the 21-year-old this Wednesday.
The prized possessions which she won in fine style at the Special Olympic World Games in LA were earned far away from the bright lights of Beverly Hills, through years of dedication and hard graft.
Ashleigh is a gymnast with Lisnagry Special Olympics Club - and her teammates, friends and family back home were never far from her mind when she flew the flag for Limerick, as the only athlete from the city or county competing in LA.
“Winning the medals was the best part,” beamed Ashleigh when asked for her Games’ highlight.
Even better than getting a selfie with A-List Hollywood stars Colin Farrell and pop sensation Nicole Scherzinger? “It was great fun,” she enthused.
So what was the heart-throb Colin Farrell like, in the flesh?
“Ah, he was alright,” smiled Ashleigh, seemingly not too fussed by the bona-fide Hollywood A-Lister. In fairness to Ashleigh, she was famished with the hunger when she met the Dubliner, and the conversation quickly turned to where was the best fast food outlet in LA to get a hamburger
“I was hungry. He said I could get good burgers in LA and I got a cheeseburger so I was delighted,” she smiled.
Former Pussycat Dolls star Nicole Scherzinger was enjoying the gymnastic contest when Ashleigh’s sister Erin asked if she would mind taking a picture with the Limerick starlet.
“My dad said to me did ‘you see who is down there?’ He said it was the girl who sang at the opening - he didn’t know her name of course,” Erin explained.
“I went down with Ash and asked if Ashleigh could have her photo taken and she said ‘of course’.
“She was talking with Ashleigh for nearly 10 minutes and she actually took a selfie with Ashleigh on her own phone.”
“She was really nice to be honest,” acknowledged Ashleigh who is looking forward to celebrating her achievements with her family and friends in The Track Bar in the coming weeks.
“I want to thank everyone who has supported me and looked after me. I want to thank Team Ireland very much for being there and everyone in Lisnagry - I am very fond of all there. My parents and all my family and friends have been great, and my cats,” she said. “I have nine cats!”