NEWBRIDGE man Sean Baldwin and Helen Kearney from Dunlavin have been named in the 48 strong Irish Paralympic team, writes Ruth Chambers.
For the first time ever, Ireland will compete in shooting, rowing and have an equesterian team at a Paralympics and indeed Sean Baldwin will take part in the shooting competition.
Baldwin is a member of the Irish Defence Forces and has competed in two Military Games, three Military World Championships, three Military European Championships and an Orientation World Championships.
Having lost his leg while on duty in Liberia in 2003, Sean now competes in both able-bodied and para-shooting events. In qualifying for London 2012, he will become Ireland’s first ever target shooter to compete at the Paralympic Games.
Helen Kearney from Dunlavin is member of the equestrian team and she made history in 2011 by winning individual bronze at the 2011 European Championship in Moorsele, Belgium.
Diagnosed with Friedreichs Ataxia (a neuromuscular disorder) at the age of twelve, Helen is one of Ireland’s most promising riders. She has been riding since the age of nine when she was bitten by the horse riding bug.
She initially started riding under the guidance of local Dunlavin woman, Rosemary Rousse. She then moved to Toberton Lodge riding school in Johnstown, Co Kildare and progressed under the tuition of yard owner Mary Kane.
Helen went on to show jump and compete as cross country events while in secondary school. Due to the deteriorating health for the next six years Helen concentrated on dressage.
Kearney has been preparing for the Paralympics for the past four years. In 2009, as a result of her heath deteriorating, she was reassessed by the Paralympic classifiers. As a result Helen now rides as a 1A - the most disabled category.
The Dunlavin athlete needed to find a horse suitable to ride in 1A and this was a long and ardous journey, as she attempted to keep fit, attend UCD where she was doing a Commerce Degree and look for a new horse which had the potential to compete at the London Paralympics.
Helen will compete with grey gelding Mister Cool.