INSPIRATIONAL Olympic torchbearers from the Magherafelt district were recently invited by Magherafelt District Council Chairman to a civic reception in their honour.
Councillor Ian Milne said that the Olympic torch’s arrival to Magherafelt on June 7 and the participation of the district’s torchbearers would make the event one to be remembered by the community for years to come.
The historic event will involve 8,000 specially nominated torchbearers who will carry the Olympic flame as it journeys across the UK. Members of the public were specially chosen for their unique contribution to their community and achievements in their sporting life.
Nine people from the Magherafelt district are among the privileged lighting up the route in Northern Ireland.
Established business owner Patsy Forbes is from Magherafelt and will be carrying the torch in Caledon near Dungannon on June 5. He has just turned 70 and takes part in 60m, 100m and 200m sprints.
Patsy took up running relatively late in life, somewhat 20 years ago and now participates in over-70s athletics. A keen sportsman, he takes part in athletic world championships, the Scottish and Irish indoor championships and will be taking part in the outdoor European championships this summer.
He says “I’m so pleased to be carrying the Olympic torch, it’s such an honour and I’d like to thank my niece for nominating me. I’m also looking forward to the torch coming to Magherafelt on June 7. Magherafelt District Council has really went to town on this and I’d like to congratulate the team for making it an event we will remember.”
12-year-old JON-PAUL DEVLIN is one of 212 pupils nominated through the ‘get-set’ network. Jon-Paul attends St Colm’s High School, Draperstown and will be running with the torch in Ballycastle on June 3.
St Colm’s High School Principal, Mrs Roisin McKenna said “From his first day in St. Colm’s, Jon Paul identified himself as a remarkable young man. He excelled during our induction/team building day. He displayed qualities of mutual respect, friendship, kindness and empathy with his new classmates. Jon Paul is a keen sportsman and signed up for our Under 14 Hurling team. He attended all training sessions working very hard to be the best he could be. Jon Paul played a vital role in the success of this team reaching the Ulster Colleges Final. He always has a smile and a pleasant word for all.”
Wheelchair user PADRAIC FARRELL is from Park Lane, Magherafelt and will be carrying torch in Newtownabbey on June 3.
Padraic has Spina Bifida and was nominated by his Dad. He says “Padraic has just come through the toughest 6 months in his short life. He has had surgery twice for the same ailment, the procedure failing the first time. His strength and positive attitude through this period has been an inspiration to me, the rest of the family and everyone who comes in contact with him. He has smiled his way through all the pain and has carried us all with him through his own pain. He is a keen sportsman and plays wheelchair basketball in the GBWBA. He has carried a torch for this family over the past 6 months and I would love to see him carry that torch all the way to the 2012 London Olympics.”
BETHANY KATE BAYLISS
BETHANY KATE BAYLISS is originally from Hampshire, England and now lives in Antrim. The 13-year-old who attends Sperrin Integrated College will be carrying the torch in Carrickfergus on June 3.
The aspiring actress, dancer and singer says that the opportunity to carry the Olympic torch is ‘outstanding’ and says she is really looking forward to the event. She says that when she is older she wants to promote the array of talent there is in Northern Ireland and give back to the community what it has given her.
Bethany Kate says she is running for the community and for her family who she describes as .
Lissan lad JAMES MCKEE was also nominated through the ‘get-set’ network. The 12-year-old is described as being excellent, infectious and modest and continually pushes himself beyond his personal best. James has an inherent love of all sports, participating with enthusiasm and commitment in his local GAA and soccer clubs. Beyond his sporting endeavours, James succeeds in other areas such as fund raising and playing guitar.
James says “I’m so excited to be carrying the torch on June 3 in Portrush. I feel it’s a great achievement and a real honour to be asked to be part of it. It’s not going to happen for another lifetime and hopefully all goes well on the day!”
DENIS BRODERICK is from Moyogall and is carrying the torch on June 4 in Coleraine. A keen cyclist, he says he mightn’t be as fast as the district’s Olympic medallist, Wendy Houvenaghal but can still cover a good few miles.
Denis was nominated by a family friend who was inspired by Denis’ energy and work. The friend said “Denis has a great work / life balance - bringing up 3 wonderful children, holding down senior roles in the hotel and catering industry and still finding time for his beloved sports! Denis has combined his love of sport with a desire to put something back into the community in which he lives. Charity cycle rides all over the world have raised £65,000 for various charities.”
Denis says “I feel very privileged and special to be nominated as a torchbearer and I think it’s marvellous that the torch is coming to Magherafelt. The council have come together to make the event very special and one which will be etched in our memories.”
Swatragh woman, OONAGH CAMPBELL will be carrying the torch in Coleraine on June 4.
Oonagh has been receiving kidney dialysis for many years and was nominated as a torchbearer because of her positive attitude and her continuous smile.
Although her health has had many complications which make her day-to-day life very difficult, Oonagh’s nominator says she continues to be inspirational to all around her and lives life to the full. She has always wanted to take part in the transplant games and to carry the torch will give her a step towards achieving that goal and give her strength to hold on to her dream.”
Oonagh says she is a little apprehensive about the event as her health is not so good at the moment but her sister, Claire Lagan will be on hand to help if needed.
AYMEN MCGONIGLE is a Downhill Mountain Bike enthusiast has been passionate about his sport for two years; selling everything he owns to build his own bike. The teenager who built his own racing track in his home town of Upperlands does all his own repairs, mechanics and fixes other people’s bikes – all of which he taught himself. Aymen clearly demonstrates passion and dedication for his sport and in his entry says: “I want to do well in downhill racing, get a career out it and have fun”.
Mum Jacqueline nominated him through the Coca Cola future flame project. The 16 year-old will be carrying the torch between the River Bann and L’Derry on June 4.
Aymen says “I’m really honoured and excited to be carrying the torch and I’d like to thank my Mum from nominating me and Coca Cola for choosing me for this special occasion.”
CLARE LEAHY is currently living in Draperstown although she was brought up in Maghera. A keen athlete throughout her life, she is now working for the Ulster Council GAA as a physical literacy coach – teaching nursery to Primary 4s in the Limavady district.
Clare was nominated by life-long friend Louise O’Doherty who says “When I first met Clare aged 11, she was into judo, javelin and athletics (although there isn’t a sport that she hasn’t played). A few years later she began playing ladies Gaelic football. Being a part of that team consumed her life. She attended training religiously and has to be admired. Clare has been an amazing friend to me over the years and is truly one of the best people I have ever met. She believes in the good in everyone and always sees the world through an optimistic eye.”
Magherafelt District Council has planned a number of exciting activities surrounding the arrival of the Olympic torch relay on June 7, including a community carnival on the evening of June 6.