Derry footballer, Kaelan Northey, is currently preparing for the experience of a lifetime as he begins the final count-down to the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece.
Kaelan has been selected to represent Ireland at the prestigious sporting event and will set off for his final training camp in Rhodes next month.
In fact, he is the only athlete from the Derry area selected to compete in the Special Olympics World Games.
And he will join 7,500 athletes from 185 nations who will compete in 22 Olympic-style sports.
Team Ireland is made up of 126 athletes, 29 of whom are from Ulster. They will compete in 12 sports over the duration of the Games and will be supported by a team of 49 coaches and official delegates.
The 13th annual World Summer Games is the biggest sporting event worldwide this summer. More than 7,000 athletes from across the world will travel to the iconic Panathenaic Stadium in Athens to participate in the games, and this Foyleside football fanatic is determined to soak up the Olympic experience and go for gold!
Kaelan, who is aged 18, is a member of the Foyle Strikers Club and will be competing in the hotly contested football competition.
A fanatical Spurs fan, Kaelan has already enjoyed success having competed at the All-Ireland Limerick Games in 2010 and he is hoping to bring home some silverware from Athens.
As the only Derry athlete on the Special Olympics Ireland squad, the former Belmont House School pupil says he’s extremely excited and proud to be representing Derry in the iconic home of the Olympics.
Having always dreamed of representing his country when playing football, the teenager agreesd that the opportunity to compete at the World Games is a “dream come true.”
Kaelan’s mum, Bernadette, says she is proud of Kaelan’s achievements and believes her football-mad son will thoroughly enjoy the chance to visit iconic Athens.
She added: “Kaelan has been training very hard and we are all so excited for him. Like his dad, Kaelan is a football fanatic.
“Obviously as a family we’ve watched him play lots of times, but this is by far his biggest competition yet. My husband David and I will be travelling out to Athens to cheer him on and we are so delighted to see him fulfilling his ambitions.
“We attended the Limerick Games last year and we know how incredibly moving and amazing it is to watch the Special Olympics athletes participate and we cannot wait to watch Kaelan in Athens.
“Special Olympics has given Kaelan so many opportunities, to gain confidence, to excel in sport and to make new friends
“Kaelan and his coach, Declan O’Neill, have put a lot of time and effort into his training and we will all be keeping our fingers crossed that it all pays off and more importantly that they enjoy this amazing opportunity to go to the home of the Olympics.
“As a family, we are so thankful to Declan and all the coaches and teachers who have had such a positive impact on Kaelan and helped him to achieve this wonderful opportunity,” concluded Bernaette.
Kaelan will leave for his final training camp in Rhodes on June 19th next. He will then travel to Athens for the opening ceremony on June 25th.