Derry man, Conor McIlveen has just returned from the World Cerebral Palsy Games in England with two gold medals.
Conor, 25, a security engineer with All State Engineering in Springtown Industrial Estate won both the 200m and 400m sprints at the Harvey Hadden Sports Complex in Nottingham.
“It was the best day ever,” recalled Conor. “There’s nothing quite like crossing the finishing line knowing you’ve won - competing for Ireland was a dream come true.”
Conor competed in what is known as the T38 category and is currently number three in Europe and number ten in the world.
“I started running about two years ago when I took part in the 2013 Walled City Marathon.
“If I had not received the help and support from people like Verona Campbell, Billy Orr, Declan Doherty and other Foyle Valley coaches I don’t think I would be running today.”
Conor added: “It wasn’t until January that I started sprinting and I haven’t looked back since.”
Now that he tasted success at the World Cerebral Palsy Games in Nottingham, Conor’s focus has shifted towards the Rio Paralympics in 2016.
“A lot of hard work and effort is required if I am to compete at the Rio Paralympics next year but I believe I can do it. My times are good and you never know what might happen if I continue to push myself.”
Conor’s parents, Martin and Susan, travelled with him to Nottingham and he said having his parents there made the experience that little bit extra special.
“I could hear my mother screaming from start to finish. She was shouting so loudly that I think one the other guys who was running next to me could hear her.
“When my mum shouted it just made me run even faster,” said Conor.
The World Cerebral Palsy Games was the first time Conor’s parents had seen their son compete.
“My mum and dad came along to cheer me on when I took part in long distance runs but they never saw me sprint before.
“My dad told me he was really proud of me after I won the 200m sprint - he said it was the quickest he ever saw me run in his life.
“I have no idea where I get it from because I know for a fact there are no sprinters in our family,” smiled Conor.