19 January 2017
Sports Minister Paul Givan and Junior Minister Alastair Ross have welcomed some of the Northern Ireland athletes who competed at the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games to Stormont.
Amongst the athletes who were able to attend on the evening were Bethany Firth who won three gold medals and a silver medal for swimming at the Games, Michael McKillop and Jason Smyth who both retained their gold medals in athletics from London 2012.
Minister Givan said: “I am immensely proud that athletes from Northern Ireland competed in the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games, which are the very highest level of international competition and one of the most celebrated world- wide sporting events.
“It was an outstanding achievement for all of our athletes to have competed at such a prestigious event.”
The Minister also acknowledged importance of the support network behind each athlete, including family, friends, coaches, sports governing bodies, Sport NI and the Sports Institute NI at Jordanstown.
The Minister continued: “The support of all the people behind the scenes is vital for the athletes to excel at the sport they love. My Department will continue to provide support to athletes, coaches and sports governing bodies, from a grassroots level right through to high performance. I am committed to making sport more accessible for everyone, particularly for females and people with disabilities, as shown by my announcements yesterday of over £400,000 of extra funding.
“I have given funding to support female participation in sport and also committed extra funding for people with disabilities which will remove many barriers to accessing sport and physical recreation.”
During the event the Minister highlighted the current work being carried out by the Department for Communities and Sport NI to increase sporting opportunities for under-represented groups like females and those with disabilities - an important aspect of identifying our rising stars of the future.
Junior Minister Alastair Ross said: “Sport has a very positive impact on our lives, physically and mentally, as participants, spectators and fans. Our Olympic and Paralympic athletes from Northern Ireland are great role models and ambassadors, encouraging and inspiring others to take part and get involved.
“I congratulate all of Northern Ireland’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes on their magnificent achievements, and wish them all continued success and enjoyment of their sports long into the future.”