Local athletes in Paralympics

Three local athletes are set to compete in the Paralympic Games that kick off in London today (Wednesday).

Three local athletes are set to compete in the Paralympic Games that kick off in London today (Wednesday).

Ray O’Dwyer from Hugginstown will be competing in the discus, javelin and shot put; Mooncoin’s James Dwyer will be competing in the equestrian events; and Gabriel Shelly of Bagenalstown will be competing in the boccia. They are among the 49 athletes representing 20 counties on Team Ireland.

Ray O’Dwyer is a field event athlete who holds the Irish record in F34 discus, javelin and shot put. Having won silver and bronze at 2011’s World Junior Championships (shot put and discus, respectively), the future looks bright for the Waterford IT student. Ray will be hoping London 2012 will be the first of many appearances at the Paralympic Games. He has been preparing in excellent fashion by winning his first Senior Championship medal with a silver in the Javelin at the 2012 IPC European Championships in June.

James Dwyer is a full-time athlete who lives and trains at Blue Hill Farm, Unionville, Philadelphia. He has been involved with horses all his life, and the loss of a lower right leg at age 17 did not stop him from continuing with the sport he loved. In 2000 he started to train with Donie McNamara (who’s now coach of the Irish para-equestrian squad) with the goal of representing Ireland at a Paralympic Games.

Recent competitive successes show James’s emergence on the world-stage. A fifth-place finish at 2010’s FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky was followed this year by his winning of all three class events at CPEDI3 in Wellington, Florida.

Ranked number two in the world, James and his horse Orlando will compete at Greenwich Park, the venue for the equestrian events at London 2012.

Gabriel Shelly is one of the most experienced Irish Paralympians, having competed at four Paralympic Games, five World Championships, four World Cups and three European Championships. His career highlights so far are winning gold at Sydney 2000, a feat that was followed up by a bronze at Beijing eight years later. Despite injury this year, he is hoping for some strong performances in London.