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“It’s tough to describe it in words but it means so much”

We are just six months out from the beginning of the 2021 Paralympics in Tokyo.

However, on Friday evening, some of Ireland’s most recognisable Paralympians took time out of their busy training schedules for an equally important cause.

Nicole Turner, Colin Judge, Ellen Keane, Martin Gordon, and President of Paralympics Ireland John Fulham traveled to Donnybrook to launch their fundraising campaign ‘The Next Level’ on the Late Late Show with Ryan Tubridy.

Irish Paralympians have been incredibly successful at recent Games winning 11 medals in Rio and 16 medals in London in 2012. However, rising success means rising standards which only incurs more cost.

The postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games has had a big impact on Paralympics Ireland, with additional costs of the postponement and Covid-19 estimated to rise to as much as €500,000

During Friday’s Late Late Show, the group made an impassioned appeal to the public to support current and future Irish para-athletes to help them to reach the next level of their sport.

Irish Paralympic athlete, Greta Streimikyte, pictured following the announcement of Paralympics Ireland’s new fundraising campaign ‘The Next Level’. Picture credit: Simon Burch

The response so far has blown them away.

“That means so, so much to us”, para-athlete Greta Streimikyte said at the launch of ‘The Next Level’.

“It’s tough to describe it in words but it means so much. The public is always behind us and they’ve always supported us. To see how active they’ve been in a short period since the campaign was launched last Friday on The Late Late Show, that means so, so much to us and we’re so grateful.

“It’s absolutely incredible.”

The 25-year-old was keen to stress that this fundraiser is not just to help the current para-athletes in Tokyo, but to inspire and aid competitors at future Games.

We as athletes, we work so hard to achieve the best possible performance and do the best we can possibly do. With this fundraiser, we’re asking for the public’s help. The public have been supportive throughout the years and that means so much to me and every athlete. It pushes us to perform even better, that support means so much. 

“It’s not even for Tokyo 2021 but it’s more for the future Paralympic Games. That fund would allow us to reach the next level, to perform the best we can possibly perform because Paralympic sport is getting more and more competitive.

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“As well with this campaign, it’s about representing equality. I think that’s very important for Paralympic sport and we’re still striving for it. In Ireland, I could say that when people know about Paralympic sport, they’re very supportive and recognise us equally with Olympics but that knowledge needs to be driven. 

“That’s one thing, another is it’s very important to inspire future Paralympians and think about the future and future athletes who are going to be representing Ireland in the Games beyond Tokyo 2021.”

Para-swimmer Nicole Turner was just 14 when she took to the pool in Rio to represent her country and has sacrificed many aspects of her life since in preparation for Tokyo. 

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Irish Paralympic swimmer, Nicole Turner, pictured following the announcement of Paralympics Ireland’s new fundraising campaign ‘The Next Level’. Picture credit: Simon Burch

Reiterating Streimikyte’s, Turner expressed her hope that this fund can help inspire children with disabilities to become leaders in their sport. 

“It won’t obviously just have an effect on us, it’ll have an effect on upcoming Paralympians going to Paris in 2024 and L.A. in 2028.

“Sport can be very expensive and between athletes, between every athlete, they do see the tiredness and the amount of effort that goes in.

“People do get great satisfaction watching the Olympics and Paralympic Games and so we’re just asking people to go to Paralympics.ie and donate – even a Euro, there’s so many people across Ireland, donate as little or as much as they can.

“I think Friday evening they raised like €40k in two and a half hours or something which is mindblowing to see the Irish public do that and obviously we’re extremely grateful for that.”

To donate to ‘The Next Level’ fundraiser for Paralympics Ireland, click here.

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Ireland’s elite para-athletes are constantly striving to achieve the next level of their sport through dedication, commitment, and perseverance. The new campaign aims to raise vital funds for para-athletes in Ireland and help to support Team Ireland’s journey to Tokyo 2021 and beyond. You can get behind the team now at: https://paralympics.ie

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Author: Marisa Kennedy

Marisa is a Digital Journalist with Pundit Arena. You can contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter