Smyth and McKillop to lead Irish team of 44 Paralympic athletes in Rio

Ireland will be represented in nine sports in Brazil

Smyth and McKillop to lead Irish team of 44 Paralympic athletes in Rio

Image by Sportsfile

Paralympic champions Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop will lead a the Irish team atthis summer's Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The team of 44 athletes, who will compete across nine different sports at the Games in Rio, includes the two defending Paralympic champions. Smyth and McKillop will be aiming to defend their titles in the 100m (T13) and 1,500m (T37) respectively.

Also featuring for athletics is London 2012 bronze medallist and World Championship silver medallist Orla Barry, who will be joined by World Championship silver medallist and world record holder, Noelle Lenihan along with European record holder Niamh McCarthy - both of whom will feature at a Paralympic Games for the first time.

Meanwhile in swimming, Dubliner Ellen Keane will be attending her third Paralympic Games at the age of 21, while James Scully will be returning for his second Games.

For the first time ever, Ireland will compete in canoeing at the Paralympic Games and it is also hoped that there will be Irish athletes representing their country in para-triathlon, with the qualification window for this sport scheduled to close later in July.

Speaking at the team announcement, Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan commented: “I would like to congratulate all of the athletes on their selection for the 2016 Paralympic Games. It is a tremendous honour for each of the 44 athletes who have been selected to represent Ireland at the Rio Games and they can all be very proud of that achievement."

Team Ireland make their way into the stadium during the 2012 Opening Ceremony. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Jeff Crow

"I have no doubt that they will be wonderful ambassadors for Ireland and for their respective sports. I would like to wish all of the athletes well in their final preparations for Rio."

Chef de Mission for the Irish Team, Denis Toomey, commented: "Team announcement day is a major milestone on Paralympic Ireland’s road to Rio. Qualifications and selections are complete and today we have announced those athletes who will represent Ireland at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games."

"As Chef de Mission, it has been both an honour and a privilege to be tasked with telling the nation who the lucky athletes are and I certainly look forward to leading them all to Rio for the Games."

Paralympic Performance Director, Dave Malone, spoke about the Irish Paralympic Team’s performance goals for Rio 2016: "Irish athletes will go to Rio this September and compete for glory against approximately 4,350 athletes from all parts of the world over the course of 11 days."

"The team is ready to achieve great personal and collective success at the Games, and their performances throughout the qualification process for Rio indicates that a medal target of eight for the team is achievable. We also anticipate a large number of finals from the team, and we are seeking career best performances from as many of the team as possible on the biggest stage of all."

"We have ring fenced all available supports around the athletes in order to ensure that they can produce their optimum performance on the international stage."

The first wave of athletes will depart on August 23rd, and will use the Irish Holding Camp in Uberlandia, Brazil to prepare for the Games, which has been set up with the generous support of Sport Ireland.