A CARRYDUFF teenager is hoping it won’t be downhill all the way in Austria this week.
Sean McCartan is a member of the Team Ireland ski squad which is taking part in the Special Olympics World Winter Games.
The 16 year-old flyer is ready for the chance of a lifetime and is a real rising star of the sport.
Having joined the Special Olympics programme at the age of seven, he has grown to become a confident skier over the last nine years.
He has notched up a collection of medals, including two golds from the Special Olympics Ireland Winter Games in 2016.
Sean is also a talented gymnast and has competed in Special Olympics Ulster and Ireland Games.
Most recently, he won five medals for various gymnastics events at the Special Olympics Ireland Games in Limerick in 2014.
But skiing is the priority right now and Sean will be cheered on in Austria by his parents, Mark and Joan, and his brother, Ross.
“I love skiing and have made great friends through being involved in Special Olympics,” he said.
“I am looking forward to competing for Team Ireland in Austria and meeting athletes from all of the other countries.”
Sean’s mum, Joan, said: “We are so happy that Sean has been selected and are looking forward to seeing all the athletes from all around the world.’’
Team Ireland is bringing six skiers to the Games, who, unsurprisingly do nearly all of their training on artificial slopes.
Head coach Jill Sloan admitted that some of them have never skied on snow until recently.
“Their recent training trip to Austria was in January, so for some of our six Team Ireland skiers this was their first chance to ski on snow,” she said.
“Sean is one of our youngest skiers and the oldest is in their 40s, so it is a diverse group.”
The Special Olympics World Winter Games Austria 2017 will be the largest sports event to take place in 2017.
Team Ireland will join almost 3,000 Special Olympics athletes from 107 countries.
Team Ireland will be supported at the Games by 12 support staff in coaching, medical, logistics and mentoring roles, while up to 100 volunteers will travel to Austria to assist with the running of the games.
Athletes will also be joined by family members and friends, who will travel to cheer them on as they compete on the world stage.