THERE are four competitors with local connections for Limerick sports fans to follow throughout the London 2012 Olympic Games.
36-year-old Michael Ryan from Oola is one of five riders set to represent Ireland in eventing at the Olympics in London.
‘Minor’ hails from a family with strong GAA connections and his wife Patricia, also an eventer, has prior Olympic experience from Sydney in 2000 and Beijing four years ago. The couple now live in Bandon in County Cork.
Ryan’s passion for the sport stemmed from his membership of the Scarteen Hunt Club.
It took him two years of qualification to earn his place in the 2012 Games, but now he has his eyes set on a top five finish aboard Ballylynch Adventure, a 12-year-old gelding.
He has represented Ireland in three European Championships with the now-retired Old Road, as well as competing at the World Championships in the United States.
Ryan is competing in team and individual eventing in London.
He begins with the dressage event, which takes place on Saturday and Sunday, before moving on to cross country on Monday and jumping on Tuesday.
The 19-year-old native of Wexford, who lives in Castletroy and attended Castletroy College, will take part in four swimming events at the Games in London.
The teenager trains at the Limerick High Performance Centre in the University Arena near her residence.
Murphy came to prominence in 2009 when she claimed four medals, three of them gold, at the European Junior Swimming Championships in Prague, and a year later she won a silver medal at the European Aquatics Championships. She received the Texaco Young Sportstar of the Year Award in 2009 and she qualified for the Olympics last December after her time for the 800m freestyle met the required standard for qualification.
Murphy will compete in the 400m individual medley on Saturday, followed by the 400m freestyle on Sunday and 200m freestyle on Monday. She will then be in action in the 800m freestyle next Thursday, August 2.
Canada-born Rachel Vanderwal, who turned 29 last month, will represent host country Great Britain in the women’s basketball tournament.
She has played with the University of Limerick since 2009 and qualifies to play for Great Britain through her Merseyside-born mother. Vanderwal teaches PE at North Presentation Secondary School in Cork.
Vanderwal has had a hugely successful three years with the UL basketball team. She is the reigning Super League Player of the Year and has been a key member of the team that has won the Super League and National Cup in both of the last two years. She plays point guard on the Great Britain team, for whom she made her début in 2010, and is one of 12 players in the women’s basketball squad.
Vanderwal will make her Olympic bow on Saturday night at 10:15 when Great Britain play Australia in their first group match. After that she is set to feature against Canada (Monday), Russia (Wednesday), France (August 3) and Brazil (August 5).
Pallaskenry native Sean O’Neill, 31, will compete in his second consecutive Olympic Games, but while he represented his country of birth in 2008, he is now a member of the New Zealand heavyweight four rowing team.
A keen follower of rugby, his interest in the game took him to New Zealand as a teenager in 1998, but it was there that he ultimately decided to concentrate on rowing, having taken up the sport to keep fit.
A year after representing Ireland in the Beijing Games, the Irish crew was disbanded and O’Neill returned to New Zealand to continue his rowing career. He has won several national titles in his adopted country and in March he was named in their 39-strong rowing squad for the Olympics. He is a long-serving member of the Wairau Rowing Club in Marlborough.
O’Neill is likely to take to the water on Monday, when the men’s heavyweight four competition begins with the heats. After that he will hope to progress with his team-mates to the semi-finals on August 2 and the final two days’ later.