The Irish Paracycling Squad paraded their new livery in Limerick today following presentation by the squad’s main sponsors An Post and Dublin and Limerick based company, Focus Consulting. Both companies announced further financial support to the team right up to the Paralympic Games in London in 2012.
Speaking at the launch Irish Paracycling Manager Denis Toomey expressed his and Cycling Ireland’s appreciation to both companies for their continued support to the squad.
“It is particularly gratifying to know this support is forthcoming in these times of severe financial constraint. This will help enormously in our attempts to get the maximum number of athletes qualified for London 2012.”
Followings the squad’s recent successes at the UCI Paracycling Track World Championships in Italy, where female tandem cyclists Catherine Walsh and Fran Meehan won the bronze medal in the 3km Individual Pursuit and the squad set a total of 12 new Irish Records, they now turn their attention to the road competitions for the summer.
“With so much expensive travel involved you can see how important the support from our sponsors is to our programme. We would also wish to recognise and express our thanks to the Irish Sports Council for their continued substantial investment to our programme” Toomey added.
Next up for the team will be the Paracycling Road World Cups in Sydney in May and Segovia Spain in June. This will be followed by the Road World Championships which take place in Denmark in September. Here handcyclist Mark Rohan will be defending his Gold Medal which he won at the 2010 World Championships in Canada. In addition the squad can secure additional qualification ranking points at a further three UCI P1 road events and two UCI Track events before the end of the year.
Rohan gets his 2011 programme underway over Easter at the European Handcycling Circuit Race in France and he has some clear objectives for the season ahead. “There is a lot to look forward to over the next year and I really can’t wait to get started. I have been training hard with some clear goals in my mind. It would be amazing to defend my World Championship Jersey in September and after that I can look ahead to the Paralympics.”
An Post’s Director of Communications and Corporate Affairs, Barney Whelan, wished the team every success in the lead up to next summer’s Paralympic Games, and was delighted An Post can lend their support.
“You have to get to know these athletes…they are wonderful, dedicated people with a fantastic back-up crew. Already they have achieved so much and have done so against the odds. They deserve all the support they can get and I wish the team all the best in the various competitions they will be partaking in over the coming months. The sponsorship remains an integral part of our overall Cycling portfolio.”
While Focus Consulting Managing Director Brian McGann also expressed his pride to be associated with such a talented group of athletes ahead of a busy schedule in the run up to London 2012.
“The Irish Paracycling Squad are a team Focus Consulting are very proud to support. Collectively they are a group with the talent, character and energy you expect from sports people at the top of their game. Their achievements to date and recent performances auger well for the team in the build up to London 2012 and we are delighted to be associated with a group with such drive, ambition and ability.”
Mark Rohan – H1 Handcyclist (Spinal Cord Injury)
Mark from Ballinahown outside Athlone, has been confined to a wheelchair since 2001 following a motorbike accident. Mark represented Westmeath in Galic Football and represented Ireland in Wheelchair Basketball at European championships in 2005, 2007 & 2009. Mark has been involved in Handcycling since attending the first Irish Classification session in February 2009. He won the UCI Paracycling H1 Road Race at the 2010 World Championships in Canada and his previous performances included a Silver Medal win at the 2010 World Cup Road Race in Spain and a Gold Medal at the 2010 European Handcycling Circuit road race in Al Ain in the UAE. He now has the unique record of being Ireland’s first Paracycling Road World Champion. Mark gets his 2011 programme under way over Easter at a European Handcycling Circuit Race in France before travelling to Sydney for the first Road World Cup of the season. He will be defending his World Championships Jersey in September in Denmark.
Catherine Walsh – Female Blind and Visually Impaired athlete & Tandem Pilot Francine Meehan
Catherine from Swords Co. Dublin, started cycling in 2007 following a very successful athletics career which saw her compete in 3 Paralympic Games and winning a bronze medal in the Pentathlon at the Sydney Games in 2000. Catherine took quickly to the bike and qualified as Ireland’s first female cyclist for the 2008 games in Beijing where she and her pilot Joanna Hickey had a 5th and 7th place finish on the track and a 7th and 9th place finish on the road. Catherine’s current pilot is Francine (Fran) Meehan from Tullamore Co. Offaly who has a background in athletics winning a scholarship to the USA where she ran track and Cross-country. She has been cycling competitively since 2007. Catherine and Fran secured a Bronze Medal for Ireland last month at the 2011 UCI Paracycling Track World Championships in Italy and also set a new Irish Record for the 1km Time Trial.
Cathal Miller – Male C5 athlete (Arm amputee)
Cathal from Artane in Dublin, who was born without his lower right arm has always been involved in sports including rugby, swimming and athletics. He joined the Paracycling Squad in 2006 and qualified for the Beijing Games in 2008 where he secured a 5th and a 7th place finish on the track breaking two Irish Records in the process. He won the Road Time Trial at the Europa Cup in Spain in 2009 and finished in 4th place at the 2010 Track World Championships following a ride off for the Bronze Medal. At the Road World Championships in Canada he secured a great 5th place finish in the Time Trial. At the recent 2011 Track World Championships in Italy he finished 5th in the 4km Pursuit and 9th in the 1km Time Trial. Cathal has been selected on the 3 man Irish Squad for the UCI Paracycling Road World Cup in Sydney at the beginning of May.
Enda Smyth C4 athlete (Cerebral Palsy)
Enda from Santry in Dublin was born with Cerbral Palsy and has been involved in cycling since 2002 when he raced at club level. He joined the Paracycling Squad in 2006 and won a Bronze Medal at the Pan-American Paracycling Track Championships in Columbia in 2007. This qualified him for the Beijing Games in 2008 where he finished 7th in the 3km Pursuit and 8th in the 1km Time Trial on the track and 9th in the Road Time Trial. Enda has been out of action since before Christmas when he suffered a badly broken wrist after a crash when out training. He is now back training with the squad and we look forward to good performance from him during the year.
Colin Lynch C2 Athlete (Leg Amputee)
Based in Macclesfield near Manchester, Colin who lost his leg following cancer of the spine joined the Irish Squad in 2009 and competed at the 2009 Track World Championships and the 2010 Road World Championships. His best results to date were at the recent 2011 UCI Paracycling Track World Championships in Italy where he finished in 6th place in both the 1km Time Trial and 3 Km Individual Pursuit competitions. Colin travels to Sydney at the end of the month with the 3 man Irish Team selected for the UCI Road World Cup.
Michael Delaney Male Blind and Visually Impaired athlete & Tandem Pilot Con Collis
Michael from East Wall in Dublin, had a successful athletics career before switching to Cycling in 2006. He came 4th in the high jump at the Sydney Paralympic Games. Michael along with his then pilot David Peelo won 2 Bronze medals at the 2007 Pan –American Paracycling Championships and was selected for the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing where they took 5th in the 200m Sprint and 10th in the 1km Time Trial. At the 2010 Track World Cup Michael had a new pilot on board Con Collis from Marino in Dublin and they won 2 Bronze Medals in the 200m Sprints and the 1km Time Trial. At the recent 2011 UCI Paracycling Track World Championships in Italy the lads finished 6th in the 1km, 7th in the 200m Sprints and 10th in the 4km Individual Pursuit.
Andrew Fitzgerald Male Blind and Visually Impaired athlete & Tandem Pilot Damien Shaw
Andrew, from Warrenpoint in Co. Down, like Michael was involved in athletics before turning his hand to cycling, his best finished was 4th place in the 5,000m at the European Disability Championships . He joined the Paracycling squad in 2006 and has represented Ireland at World Championship level in 2007, 2009 and 2010. This year he got a new Pilot Damien Shaw from Mullingar a keen runner who has only recently taken up cycling. The lads have gelled well and set a New Irish Record for the 4km Pursuit at the recent UCI Paracycling World Track Championships in Italy finishing in 9th place. The will be hoping for even better results when the road season gets underway shortly.
Denis Toomey – Irish Paracycling Manager
Denis has been the driving force behind Paracycling since 2001 when spearheaded Ireland’s first sojourn into cycling for people with disabilities. He was tandem pilot for Ireland’s first Paracycling qualifier visually impaired athlete Mark Kehoe at the Athens Paralympic Games in 2004 finishing in 18th place. Since 2005 he has been the Irish Manager and qualified 4 bikes for the Beijing Games where Ireland had 3 fifth place finishes and set 7 new Irish Records. He was named Irish Paracycling Manager by Paralympics Ireland for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. His role is purely voluntary and he spends most of his annual holidays away with the Paracycling Squad.
The number of bikes that Ireland will qualify for the London Games is based on ranking points that the athletes accumulate at certain events up until March 2012. There were two slots up for grabs (one male and one female) at the 31st December 2010. To get these the team had to finish in the top 40 Nations for men and the top 25 Nations for women which they successfully did by finishing 15th out of 53 countries. The remaining slots will be determined on Nations Rankings at the end of February 2012 so the squad will have to try and secure maximum points between now and then. These events include World Cup Races in Australia, Spain and Canada, Road World Championships in Denmark, 3 UCI P1 category Road Events and 2 UCI P1 Category Track Events, so a very busy year lies ahead. The aim is to qualify a minimum of 5 bikes for London and beat the Beijing allocation of 4 bikes.