Team Northern Ireland’s athletes have taken home a grand total of 28 medals from this year’s hugely successful Sainsbury’s UK School Games, which took place in Manchester at the weekend.
The medal haul is three more than at the 2014 Games, and also saw Northern Ireland increase its share of golds and bronzes. In total, athletes won a total of 7 gold, 4 silver and 17 bronze medals.
Paralympic Champion swimmer Bethany Firth took on the role of Team Captain for the event, having previously triumphed at the 2011 School Games back, and many of the team’s athletes went on to follow in Bethany’s footsteps with similar successes.
Among them were the Boys Hockey team, who defeated England 5-0 in the final to claim their gold medal, with the Girls team taking bronze.
In Judo, there were four medal successes in total. James Reid won gold in the Boy’s 81kg event, with bronze medals for Joshua Green (Boys under 60kg),Kirstie Strouts-McCallion (Girls over 70kg) and for the Northern Ireland Team.
Team NI won a further four medals in the gymnastics events. Casey Jo Bell and Ewan McAteer each took home a silver in the Vault, with Ewan claiming a bronze in the Parallel Bars discipline and Jack Neil picking up bronze in the Pommel as well.
In athletics, Phoebe Tan took Gold in the Girls High Jump, with Shane Martin winning silver and Ellen McCartney winning bronze in the Boys and Girls Pole Vault respectively.
In table tennis, there were both team and individual successes – Rebecca Finn won a gold medal in the Girls Individual competition, with the Boys Team taking silver.
A total of four medals were won across the swimming events at the Games – Mona McSharry won two gold medals (in the 100m and 200m Backstroke) while there were also bronze medal wins from Rebecca Reid (200m Individual Medley) and Mitchell Wilson (400m Individual Medley). As well as the individual medals, the Girls team took gold in the final of the 400m Medley Relay.
Lastly, local fencers took home a massive eight bronze medals across the competition, including:
Theo Slater – Boys Foil
Kerrie Johnston – Girls Foil
Kejiah Beattie – Girls Foil
Philip Slater – Boys Epee
Boys Team – Male Team Epee
Boys Team – Male Team Foil
Girls Team – Female Team Foil
Girls Team – Girls Team Sabre
162 athletes represented Team NI during the three days of competition, competing in eleven current and future Olympic and Paralympic sports. A total of 1,600 elite school-age athletes and 500 officials took part in this year’s event, which re-enforces the experience of Olympic and Paralympic Games complete. As well as featuring opening and closing ceremonies and an athlete village, participants also had the opportunity to engage in an education programme covering areas including anti-doping, with Sport NI’s Anti-Doping Education Officers among those providing information and advice to athletes and coaches. Along with Bethany Firth, other sportspeople in attendance during the weekend included Paralympic Champion swimmer Ellie Simmons and former GB sprinter (and Olympic gold medallist) Jason Gardner.
Reflecting on the success of Team NI at the event, Sport NI Chair Brian Henning commented:
“This is a tremendous achievement from our athletes, and is testament to their hard work and the dedicated support of their coaches and staff. The UK School Games provides an excellent opportunity for our new generation of elite athletes to showcase their skills and compete with some of the best talent from across the UK at a large-scale, multi-sport event. They have clearly risen to the occasion and the haul of gold, silver and bronze medals across the different sports demonstrates the talent that exists locally.”
“Sport Northern Ireland was delighted to host an Orientation Day for Team NI in August and it was a great opportunity for us to meet the athletes and to give them the opportunity to meet and get to know each other before heading off to Manchester to compete. I was very impressed by their commitment, focus and spirit and that has been borne out by the success they have enjoyed. I hope the experience of the Games inspires this new generation of sporting winners to continue working and training hard in the pursuit of further athletic success.”