NI Athletes In Training For Abu Dhabi Special Olympics

A group of 21 athletes from Ulster are gearing up for the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi next month.

The team will compete across 10 sports at the event from 14-21 March, accompanied by 15 volunteers.

This year's Special Olympics Ulster team was jointly sponsored by the Department for Communities, the Department of Health and the Department of Education, who contributed a combined total of £610,000.

A reception was held in Belfast earlier this week for the athletes due to take part.

Speaking at the event, Department for Communities Permanent Secretary Tracy Meharg said: "The 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games provide a unique opportunity for competition at the very highest level for our Special Olympics athletes, giving them the opportunity to compete as well as meet and form new friendships and to enjoy new life experiences.
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"The Department continues to support the excellent work that Special Olympics Ulster does to improve the quality of the Sports Programme it offers, to develop and promote opportunities for engagement and involvement of athletes and to continue with its holistic approach to growing its Health and Wellbeing Programme with the athletes. They help promote social inclusivity, to support athlete participation in sport and society, together with the optimisation of the volunteering aspect of local operations.

"I would like to commend those who have worked so hard to make the participation of local athletes at the Games a reality. That includes those athletes, coaches, volunteers and supporters who dedicate their time week after week to ensure the Special Olympics flame remains alight."

Team Ireland will consist of 91 Special Olympics Ireland competitors, which includes the 21 athletes from Special Olympics Ulster. Matt English, CEO Special Olympics Ireland said: "2019 is shaping up to be a huge year for our athletes having worked so hard over the past three years to qualify for these Games. The support we receive from the Department for Communities, the Department of Health and the Department of Education through Sport NI is invaluable, in supporting these athletes and thousands of others that participate in the year-round Special Olympics programme in the Ulster region."

Shaun Cassidy, Regional Director of Special Olympics Ulster added: "It is a great honour for each and every Ulster athlete that has been selected for Team Ireland, having worked so hard over the past three years to qualify for these Games and to compete at international level and represent Team Ireland in Abu Dhabi. As the countdown continues, excitement is mounting, and we would encourage everyone to put their support behind these dedicated athletes."


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