Congratulations to Bridie Lynch and Tony Guest, winners of top Paralympic Ireland awards at the Guinness Storehouse last Friday night..
Tony Guest – VSI member and long time athletics coach, manager and guide runner – received the Irish Paralympic Order award. . This is the highest honour Paralympics Ireland can bestow as it is a merit award for outstanding service to the Paralympic movement in Ireland.
Bridie Lynch – VSI member and star of the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta – was inducted into the Paralympis Ireland Hall of Fame. Bridie is one of the first athletes ever to receive this prestigious award.
Overall Paralympics Ireland made a number of key award presentations last nightt at the official dinner of the EPC General Assembly and Conference in the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.
With RTÉ’s Eamon Horan acting as MC, the awards followed speeches from European Paralympic Committee president John Petersson, and Paralympics Ireland president, James Gradwell.
Chief amongst the presentations was the awarding of the Irish Paralympic Order. This is the highest honour Paralympics Ireland can bestow as it is a merit award for outstanding service to the Paralympic movement in Ireland. Candidates have also illustrated the values of excellence, integrity, teamwork, community, accountability, respect and commitment throughout that service.
There were three winners, who were presented with their awards by John Petersson, James Gradwell and International Paralympic Committee president, Sir Philip Craven.
Vision Sports Ireland wish to congratulate the three winners of the Order award, all old friends of ours. Joining Tony Guest on the winner’s platform were Jimmy Byrne and Brenda Green. In the early days of organised sport here Jimmy Byrne from the Irish Wheelchair Association was a major influence on how we roganised ourselves. Always a gentleman. We first met Brenda in the lead in to the 1984 Paralympic Games in New York. Brenda has purt heart, soul and much more into CP sport and Paralympic sport in general and greatly deserves the acclaim.
The Ofder winners:
Jimmy Byrne has dedicated his life to involving people with a physical disability in sport from beginner level right through to the Paralympics. From influencing policy-makers to coaching first-time participants, Jimmy has promoted Paralympic sport for many years at all levels.
He worked closely with Anne Ebbs in coordinating all Irish Paralympic activities prior to the full time establishment of the Paralympic Council of Ireland and was involved in the formation of the first Paralympic committee in the mid-1980s.
Jimmy was (and is) involved in Paralympic activities across a number of roles down through the years. He introduced many athletes (former and current) to Paralympic sport, coordinated a wide range of activities relating to many Paralympic cycles including training, coaching, logistics and team management, and was chef de mission of the Irish team for the Beijing Games in 2008.
Jimmy is still actively involved in supporting Paralympic sport. He currently coaches a number of Paralympic athletes and is regularly seen at development events introducing new members to various Paralympic sports. His remarkable dedication and commitment to Paralympic sport is something which deserves to be acknowledged at the highest level.
Tony Guest was involved in Vision Sports Ireland – and its pre-decors for 32 years, initially as a guide runner to the late John Newman, before becoming a national coach/team manager at events.
He then went on to become the Vision Sports Ireland representative on the Paralympic Council. In 2001 he became the Paralympic Council president and held that position during the Athens and Beijing Paralympic Games cycles.
Tony has been an exceptional servant to Paralympic sport in Ireland and is deserving of Paralympics Ireland’s highest honour.
Brenda Green founded Cerebral Palsy Sport Ireland in 1978, as there was no group providing sport specifically for people with cerebral palsy, and became its first chairperson. She started the regular Thursday Sports Club in Sandymount and provided regular training weekends and annual participation at the Nottingham School of Sport, which continued until her retirement as a physio from Enable Ireland in 2001.
Brenda was responsible for introducing the sports of football 7-a-side (1980) and boccia (1986) to Ireland, sports which proved richly fruitful for many years at the Paralympic Games. She led many Irish teams over the course of her career and was an official on the Irish Paralympic team at four Paralympic Games. She also became heavily involved in classification of CP athletes and was an official classifier at the Barcelona 1992 Paralympics.
Brenda has been involved with the governing body of Paralympics Ireland since its inception as a coordinating body in 1987. She has held many roles within the organisation and acted as honorary secretary for the last eight years until stepping down during the summer. The most fitting tribute came from Paul Cassin when he said “On behalf of all of us with CP, you changed our lives”.
Three deserving individuals were also inducted into the Paralympics Ireland Hall of Fame, which ensures that a permanent record and institutional memory is kept of the top Irish Paralympic athletes of all time. It honours performers who have achieved a high and sustained level of success, or have given notable service, consistently displayed a spirit of fair play, and generally made a positive contribution to the Irish Paralympic movement.
Induction into the Paralympics Ireland Hall of Fame is for the very elite. Vision Sports Ireland are delighted that legends Michael Cunningham and Oliver Murphy have joined with Bridie Lynch in the Hall.
The Hall of Fame winners
Michael Cunningham competed with great distinction at eight Paralympic Games from 1972 in Heidelberg to the 2000 Games in Sydney. He won Gold in the javelin in the 1976 Toronto Games.
Mick was an All-Star and international basketball player, as well as being the only wheelchair athlete to represent Leinster in table tennis. Overall, he was a hugely talented athlete who excelled in track, field, basketball and table tennis and he remains active in basketball as a coach. He attended the 2012 London Games as assistant table tennis coach.
Bridie first represented Ireland at the 1983 European Athletics Championships in Varna, Bulgaria where she won discus bronze at the age of 17. She went on to represent Ireland in four subsequent Paralympic Games (New York in 1984, Barcelona in 1992, Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000), winning gold in the discus at Barcelona. Bridie has also won Paralympic silver and bronze at shot putt and pentathlon.
Oliver Murphy is the last living member of the first Irish Paralympic team in 1960. Oliver was one of a small team of people who, following his accident, quickly realised the importance of sport in the lives of people with a disability. Indeed he was a patient of the father of the Paralympic movement, Sir Ludwig Guttman and was inspired by the power of sport.
Upon returning from the Games in 1960, he was a founding member of the Irish Wheelchair Association and his legacy has been the formation of a 20,000 member organisation that has a network all over Ireland.
Oliver competed at the 1960, 1964 and 1968 Paralympic Games. For his huge vision with his team mates on the first team and their efforts to improve the rights of people with disabilities, he is a deserving inductee.