Northern Ireland news

Co Armagh village preparing to welcome home triumphant Special Olympics athlete

Megan McElherron from Bessbrook, with her mother Sharon and her gold medal in Abu Dhabi
Marie Louise McConville

A CO Armagh teenager who won a gold and silver medal at the Special Olympics World Summer Games is expected to return to her home village today to a hero's welcome.

Megan McElherron, who lives in Bessbrook, travelled to Abu Dhabi as part of Team Ireland's 91-strong squad of athletes.

The 18-year-old, who has a range of complex health conditions including genetic heart condition, cardiomyopathy and dyspraxia, a developmental co-ordination disorder, as well as asthma, competed in three equestrian events at the games.

After winning a silver medal in the working trials event on Saturday, just a few days later, she won a gold in English equitation.

She then came fourth in her final event, dressage.

The teenager, who is studying maths and English at Southern Regional College in Newry, is now preparing to leave Abu Dhabi to travel home with the Ireland squad, who are due to arrive at Dublin Airport today.

Speaking to the Irish News yesterday, Sharon McElherron, who made the journey to Abu Dhabi with her daughter, Megan and her other daughter, Melissa, said the family was "over the moon" with the teenager's success.

Mrs McElherron said her daughter has been horse-riding since she was eight-years-old.

"Horses are her life," she said.

"She would ride horses eight days a week if she could.

"She did her training, she did the regionals and the Ulsters and she got two gold medals at the All-Ireland Games.

"We are over the moon. We are very excited. She is the same, just on cloud nine.

"Nothing stops her. She is determined".

Mrs McElherron thanked everyone in the Bessbrook community who helped with the fundraising to send Megan to the Special Olympics, particularly the team at the Vivo store who organised a sponsored walk.

"Thank you very much for all your support," she said.

"It's been a great help"

Dara Cosgrove, who runs the Vivo store where Megan's mother and aunt work, said the village is "buzzing with excitement".

"We have been running the shop for 10 years and we have never really experienced the goodwill like that for Megan and her family," she said.

"There's an overwhelming feeling of joy in her medal-winning performances. It's been the main topic of conversation."

She added: "We are looking forward to her triumphant return so we can all let her know how proud we are. We are having a bit of a bash between 5pm and 6pm. The banners are going up. We just want to make it special for her."

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