Patrick Flanagan has physically and psychologically broken through barriers that would have held a lesser person back. Aged just 14, the Longford town swimmer has been selected to represent Ireland at the 2012 UK Schools Games, a high profile sporting event being held at the Olympic Park and other venues in London.
Furthermore, Patrick, son of Kevin and Siobhán, was recently awarded Irish Paralympic Swimmer of the Year 2012 at an awards ceremony in Belfast.
“I’ve been swimming for about five years. When I was younger my mum taught me how to swim and I always liked it...I train seven times a week and on average it’s for an hour and a half each time,” said Patrick, who will soon take to the waters of the Olympic pool, London.
The games, which include participants from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, feature 1,600 young athletes of school-going age. Patrick, a student at Ballymahon Mercy Convent, will compete in two swimming competitions: the front-crawl and the back-crawl.
“I just swim with my arms. I don’t use my legs at all. But I approach swimming from the same perspective as everyone else,” said Patrick who lives with Spina Bifida.
It is anticipated that some 35,000 people will cheer on the athletes at the UK School Games. Among them will be other members of the Irish team and Patrick’s mother, Siobhán.
“I swim the front-crawl 150 metres and the back-crawl 100 metres,” said Patrick, a member of Longford Swimming Club.
Ronan McNevin, a coach with Longford Swimming Club, told the Leader of his joy at Patrick’s participation in the upcoming UK Schools Games.
“It really is great for Longford and for the club,” he said. “Patrick thoroughly enjoys his swimming and is very proficient in his strokes. We wish him the best of luck.”
Another rising star in Longford Swimming Club is Daniel Mimnagh of Longford town. Shortly Daniel will travel to Edinburgh to represent the universities of Ireland. Daniel, a student at the National University of Ireland Maynooth, also plays football for Killoe.
In addition, Longford Swimming Club have three members on the National Youth Development Squad, which is currently training for the Olympics 2016. They are Longford’s Darragh Greene, Gerry Quinn and Ciara McNevin.
“Considering that the squad is made up of a panel of 40 swimmers, to have three there is quite a feat for us,” said Mr McNevin.
He added: “They are all selected based upon times achieved. This really is a huge achievement for the kids across the board.”
Longford Swimming Club has a membership of 120 children aged between 7 and 19 years of age. Just over 20 of them are actively training for between 11 and 15 hours per week at The Mall.
“It’s certainly a commitment, but if you’re serious about it, it’s well worth the reward,” said Mr McNevin.
The UK Schools Games, which are the final event to be held at the Olympic Park prior to the Olympics 2012 opening ceremony (July 27), take place between May 6 and 9 next.