IT’S not every day you celebrate your 50th birthday, but Geraldine Malone had the pleasure of walking away with a medal after competing in her first Special Olympic games at the weekend.
Geraldine was one of 21 athletes associated with the Daughters of Charity in Lisnagry, aged 14 to 56, who took part in the games over the weekend. “I was 50 on Thursday, but I’ll be celebrating again tonight. I got bronze in the 100m walk. I’m delighted. I’d definitely do it again,” she told the Limerick Leader.
Ann Lees, a delegate with Lisnagry, said three of their athletes took part in athletics, with others taking part in soccer, bocce, and golf, among other sports.
Sports star on the national stage were there to lend their support of the 1,500 athletes taking part, including Alan Quinlan and John ‘The Bull’ Hayes, Keith Wood of rugby fame, and Mickey Harte, the Co Tyrone Gaelic football manager.
“This is the first time I’ve had a first hand experience of the atmosphere generated at the games. There’s nothing but good vibes coming out of this place, and that’s a lesson for all of us - that when good people come together, great things happen. Nobody has put any limits on anybody’s capacity,” he told this newspaper.
Dave Mahedy, manager of the UL Arena, which hosted seven of the 14 events, said this was a festival of “pure sport”.
“It gives us all a lesson in what sport is all about - the sportsmanship, the camaraderie, and it gives you a reality check - you can get upset about referee’s decisions, and then you see this and think ‘This is what sport is all about’. It has been fantastic. It gives you a great lift.
“The currency is smiles and hugs, and it’s infectious,” he said.
Dorothy Kavanagh, from Pallasgreen, has been a coach with the Special Olympics since 1979, and yesterday saw her team Munster make it through to the basketball finals.
“It’s just fab to have it in Limerick. It really is something special to have it in your own place,” she said.
Among the players on the Munster basketball team is Christine Delaney, 43, from Annacotty, who is also ‘the face of the Games’. “It was marvellous and an honour to be asked,” she said.