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Sports : Special Olympics Last Updated: 2, Apr 2018 - 10:02

Another Success for Mayo
By Alison Healy of The Irish Times
28, Jun 2003 - 01:10

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Gary Durcan (14) from Castlebar was an early participant in the bean bag lift. He sat in his wheelchair and gazed at the blue and yellow bags. If the silent urging of the audience could have moved them, they would have soared over Ballsbridge.

"I think he needs a little encouragement," said the MC, Nicola O'Lone.

As the audience cheered, Gary stretched out a hand. Then he pulled it back. The hand went out again and the yellow bag was in the air and into the basket. Had he just climbed Mount Everest and abseiled back down in time for tea, Gary wouldn't have received more applause.

His father Padraic, mother Mary Ann and brothers Mark, Patrick and James were elated. "We are very, very proud, needless to say. Gary can't communicate but we can see the excitement in his eyes," he said. "This whole event is tremendous. We'll never see anything like it again."

The programme is for athletes who don't yet have the skills to participate in a competitive environment. It aims to develop their motor skills, with tasks such as pushing a ball, or stepping across a low bar. Many athletes have physical disabilities, as well as severe learning disabilities.

Some will progress to lower ability events in areas such as gymnastics or bowling. Others won't, but the participation will improve their co-ordination and social skills.

Emotion is a word frequently used with Special Olympics, but the motor activities programme must be the most moving event of all to watch. Never mind cutting the atmosphere with a knife, you could have used a ladle to spoon the emotion at yesterday's event. Many eyes blinked away tears when the music swelled and the athletes paraded around the floor, either in wheelchairs, or linked by their coaches.

Profile : Gary Durcan

Address: Ballynew,

Turlough Road,


Co. Mayo

Age: 14 Years

Family: Brothers Mark Age 10,

Twin Brothers Patrick & James Age 8,

Parents Padraic & Mary Ann

School: St Hubert’s Special School (Western Care)

Principal: Ms Brid Healy & Staff

Coaches: Ms Patricia Naughton

Mr Anthony Corcoran

House Parent: Ms Ann Marie Gannon

P.A.: Mr Frankie Scully

Sport: Motor Activity

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