Staff from UHG representing Ireland at the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi

Staff from UHG representing Ireland at the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi

Two staff members at University Hospital Galway are helping to show the best of Ireland at the Special Olympics World Games next month.

Gina Naughton, Radiology Systems Manager, and Michelle O’Keane, who works for Aramark in the Café in UHG are both part of team Ireland at the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi next month.

Gina is the Head Coach for the Irish Ladies Basetball team and Michelle is competing in the Kayaking events.

They are part of a massive effort of 91 athletes and 38 coaches and managers headed to Abu Dhabi for the first ever Special Olympics Games to take place in the Middle East or North Africa.

Gina, who lives on the Newcastle road, has been involved in basketball her entire life.

Over the years she’s played at the school, club, and national level before being asked to coach the Connacht Basketball team.

“We got through to the finals of the National Games in June and won the gold medal and that was the start of the journey to the World Games.

“She said that she was “delighted be asked to coach the Ladies team for the Olympics.”

“Our training and preparations are coming along really well and we are looking forward to competing with athletes from around the world next month.”

She added that it’s been an incredible experience to work with “such a dedicated group of athletes who are so determined to give it their all.”

Michelle, from Knocknacarra, took up  kayaking 5 years ago and is also a medal winning competitive swimmer.

This is her first World Games, but she’s already competed in three Special Olympics Ireland events in swimming and kayaking.

“We have been working towards this for a long time, some of us have been waiting for this moment since we started with Special Olympics,” Michelle said.

She said that the kayaking team came together last October and in their training since then they’ve come to know each other and how to operate as a team.

“We promise to do our very best in Abu Dhabi and ask that you continue to support us and follow us on the journey; hopefully there will be lots to celebrate along the way.”

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