Ryan shines with Olympic honour

Ryan O'Connor, selected to carry the Olympic Torch through Ballykelly, celebrating with family members and friends, from left, Caitlin and Emer Mullan, Fergal O'Connor, Anna Li Cooke and Caragh Mullan. (2003PG91)
Ryan O'Connor, selected to carry the Olympic Torch through Ballykelly, celebrating with family members and friends, from left, Caitlin and Emer Mullan, Fergal O'Connor, Anna Li Cooke and Caragh Mullan. (2003PG91)
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An “inspirational” Dungiven teenager waiting on a heart transplant has been chosen as a torchbearer to carry the Olympic Flame through Ballykelly in June.

Ryan O’Connor was nominated by his mum Donna for the “once in a lifetime” opportunity and says he can’t wait until June 4 when he will carry the torch 300 metres through the borough as part of the relay.

“I was kind of surprised to be picked as there were 1000s of people nominated,” he told the ‘Journal’, yesterday. “It’s something for me to really look forward to and aim for.”

The 17-year-old media student says he has “struggled” in life because of his heart condition. Last November he had a pacemaker installed, and is waiting on a transplant.

“Growing up, especially as a teenager, it was a struggle,” he said, revealing he was also subjected to bullying in his teenage years. “I didn’t have the capabilities to do what others could. I did my best but I was targeted because I was weak. Primary school was bad, but high school was a nightmare.”

Ryan’s “passion and ability to open happiness in others” was what convinced selectors to choose Ryan as a torchbearer. He says the bullying only made him more determined to “stay strong” and “fight on”.

“To be honest, this is probably the best thing that has ever happened in my life,” said the brave teen. “I can’t wait. I just hope my health stays strong and I’m really embracing it. I hope I don’t drop it!”

Ryan thanked mum Donna for nominating him and all his friends and family for their support.

“Ryan has been through so much, all his life, and he has never complained through any of it,” said Donna. “He is a great son, and he’s had it so tough. When I nominated him it was a ‘needle-in-a-haystack’ type of thing so we’re all thrilled for him. We’re over the moon and we hope people come out and show their support.”

Go to www.games/olympic-torch-relay/torchbearers for details on the route and names of other torchbearers through the Limavady borough.