Ireland's flagbearer at the 2016 Paralympics opening ceremony is as experienced as they come

This will be John Twomey's 11th Games appearance

John Twomey, sailor, Annalise Murphy

Paralympian sailor John Twomey shares a joke with Olympic sailor Analise Murphy at the Irish Paralympic Team homecoming in Dublin Airport, ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Believe it or not, Ireland's flagbearer for the 2016 Paralympic Games had retired 20 years ago.

But two decades on from 1996 and Kinsale native John Twomey is still in the midst of elite competition.

The Irish sailor will be going to his 11th Games, having debuted at the 1976 Games, six years after the budding hurler broke his back and began using a wheelchair.

However, those early forays into the Paralympic Games were away from the water, winning gold and bronze in the 1988 and 1984 editions respectively in the discus.

Sailor John Twomey ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

There was also a silver in table tennis at Arnhem 1980.

But in 2000 when sailing became a discipline in the Paralympics, the Cork man returned to elite sports and opened up a whole new chapter to his career. 

Significantly, the 61-year-old had been sailing since the late 1970s and specialises in the Open Three-Person Keelboat - Sonar.

Having taken part in the most recent Games for Ireland, he has become the first Irish athlete to appear in at least 10 Paralympic or Olympic Games.

So it is fitting that he will carry the tricolour into the Maracana stadium, especially as the 2016 Games are due to be his final farewell from a long and illustrious athletics career.

As he said to Newstalk when it was announced that he would be flagbearer: "I'm very proud of the fact that I've been asked to carry the flag in Rio. It's a real honour for myself and my family, and for the sailing team as well."