Eleven fascinating facts about Team Ireland's Paralympians at Rio 2016

Eleven fascinating facts about Team Ireland's Paralympians at Rio 2016

• Team Ireland has 48 participants, 28 of which will be competing at their first Paralympic Games in Rio this year.

• Irish athletes won 16 medals at the last Paralympics Games in London (six gold, three silver and five bronze medals). There were double golds for Jason Smyth, Michael McKillop, handcyclist Mark Rohan (now retired) and one each for swimmers Darragh McDonald (now retired) and Bethany Firth (now swimming for GB).

• Team Ireland won a total of five medals in Beijing 2008 (three gold, one silver, one bronze) and four in Athens 2004 (three silver, one bronze), and Paralympics Ireland has set a target of eight medals for Rio 2016.

• In Rio, Ireland will have three reigning world champions, two of whom – Jason Smyth (T13 World Champion at 100m) and Michael McKillop – are also reigning double Paralympic champions. Para cyclist Eoghan Clifford is the third world champion.

• Jason Smyth was the first Paralympic athlete to compete in athletics’ able-bodied European (Barcelona 2010) and World Championships (Daegu 2011) and he reached the semi-finals in the former and finished fourth. He is also the current Irish (able-bodied) 100m champion, a title he has won three times.

• The youngest member of Team Ireland is Laois teenager Nicole Turner, who was only 13 when she won three medals at this year’s Para Swimming European Championships. She has since turned 14 (on June 14, 2016).

• The second youngest member of the team is Cork discus thrower Noelle Lenihan who is 16, while Sonar skipper, John Twomey (61), is the eldest.

• Sailing staff member Ben Lynch is the older brother of Finn Lynch who made his debut at the Rio Olympics in August. Finn was Ireland’s youngest ever helmsman.

• Cork native Patrick O’Leary will be Ireland’s first Paralympic paddler while Catherine Walsh and pilot Francine Meehan will be Ireland’s first Paralympians in triathlon, with both sports making their debuts at the Paralympics.

• Multi-talented John Twomey will be Ireland’s most experienced Paralympian in Rio. This will be his 11th consecutive appearance at a Paralympic Games. He has competed in every Games since 1976 and has won two medals – a gold in Discus in 1988 and a bronze in Discus in 1984. He has been concentrating on sailing since 2000.

• Catherine Walsh is the second most experienced team member, and will make her seventh Paralympic Games appearance in Rio. She has competed in every Games since 1992 and has won three medals – bronze in athletics (P13 Pentathlon) in Sydney 2000 and a silver (Track Pursuit) and bronze (Road Race) in London 2012 in cycling, with her tandem pilot, Francine Meehan.

Source: Paralympics Ireland