Future Irish athletics champs shine at indoor diversity games
17th January 2018
Minister of State for Integration David Stanton was impressed with the wealth of young talent taking part in Ireland’s first indoor ‘diversity games’ recently.
The games were organised by the Offaly Sports Partnership with support from the Department of Justice and Equality’s Communities Integration Fund.
Taking place last month, the day saw the minister treated to a series of competitive races at the Athlone IT International Arena run by primary and secondary school students, the majority of whom from Co Offaly but also included pupils from Galway, Meath, Laois and Sligo.
Performance of the day went to 11-year-old Nadia Udo-Obong, a sixth-class pupil from Turbbercurry in Sligo, who ran the 60m sprint in an impressive 8.34 seconds.
“It’s in her genes,” said her coach Dermot McDermott, who noted that Nadia’s father Enefiok Udo-Obong won two Olympic medals for Nigeria in 2000 and 2004, and her grandmother was also an Olympian. “It would be great to have someone like Nadia run for Ireland when she’s older.”
Others to make their presence felt were siblings Helen, John and Naomi Ikpotokin from Portarlington in the long sprints. Their parents came to Ireland as asylum seekers and started their family in Ireland. All three siblings finished second in the 60m sprints before turning in very fast runs in the long sprints.
Naomi (10) finished second to Nadia Udo-Obong in the 60m with a time of 8.85 before winning the 300m in 49.63 seconds. John (12) was one-hundredth of a second behind Evan Farrelly in the 60m. He then won the 200m in 25.8 seconds. Helen (14) ran the 60m in 8.17, two-hundredths of a second behind All Ireland sprint champion Erin Taheny, before winning the 200m in 26.64.
Another young athlete with a bright future is Laura Bolster from Ashbourne, who had comfortable wins in both First Year Girls 60m (8.43) and 200m (28.07).
But it wasn’t just established athletes taking part. Over 200 pupils were showcasing their talent and ability, some for the first time. In the process they were all picking up points for their schools in the team competitions.
“Projects like this are very important,” said Eamonn Henry of the Offaly Sports Partnership. “They allow us to introduce the sport in schools with large numbers of children of migrant parents – after that we try and get some into athletic clubs.”
Speaking on the day, Minister Stanton said: “The [Migrant Integration Strategy] which was published last spring contains a commitment to explore the potential of sport in the integration of all migrants through encouraging active participation, volunteering and involvement for all.
It is for this very reason I established the Communities Integration Fund which has helped Offaly Sports Partnership deliver this wonderful event and supported other local sports initiatives which seek to bring diverse communities together.”
Offaly Sports Partnership is one of 131 organisations supported through the Communities Integration Fund. In the past 12 months, communities across Ireland received support from the fund to play a greater role in promoting integration by delivering locally based projects that contribute to inclusion and diversity.