World Special Olympics triple silver medal winning gymnast Kellie O'Donnell was hailed as an inspiration and role model for all young people in Ireland at a mayoral reception in her honour at Carrick-on-Suir Town Hall.
The 24 year-old from Tanners Gate, Carrick-on-Suir was accorded the reception by Carrick-on-Suir Municipal District on Wednesday, May 1 in recognation of her success at the recent World Special Olympics Summer Games in Abu Dhabi where she won three silver medals in the vaulting, uneven bars and on the balance beam. She also finished fourth and fifth in two other events.
Kellie proudly wore her three World Special Olympics medals at the reception that was attended by about 25 family and friends including her parents Tara and Leslie, siblings Aaron, Jamie and Clodagh.
Carrick-on-Suir MD chairperson Cllr Louise O'Loughlin, who presented Kellie with a framed scroll marking the according of the mayoral reception, paid tribute to her fantastic achievements at the World Games. She said Kellie developed her great passion for gymnastics when she was eight years old and joined Waterford Special Olympics Club .
Cllr McLoughlin detailed how Kelly trained at this club two days a week, does a further two days pilates training to help her balance and muscle strength and tops it off with two more days of high intensity fitness classes at Five Star Fitness Gym in Carrick-on-Suir.
"Conor McGregor doesn't train as much as that," she declared.
The FG councillor paid tribute to Kelly's back room team of coaches and the support she received from her parents and siblings. "Your dedication to training and you determination to achieve excellence in a sport that demands unbelievable balance, strength and flexibility is testament to the type of person you are. You are an inspiration to us all and a role modle to all young people in Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary and the whole country.”
Carrick-on-Suir Cllrs Kieran Bourke (FF) and David Dunne (SF) also paid glowing tributes to Kellie and said they were very proud of her achievements.
Cllr Bourke said her medal winning performances at the World Games was a "phenomenal" personal achievement.
" I have no doubt when you are re-selected to represent Ireland at the Berlin Games in 2023 you will again do us proud," he added.
Former FG town councillor and local election candidate Margaret Croke pointed out Kellie came from a fantastic family of athletes.
" I am sure the next time there will be nothing stopping you from winning that bit of gold,” she said.
Kellie's grandparents Kathleen and Eddie Keevan said it was an absolute honour to be in Abu Dhabi to witness Kellie win her three silver medals on St Patrick's Day and they wished her the best of luck for the future.
Her pilates coach Ciara Conway said from the moment she met Kellie she knew she was going to do so well at the World Games. "When she came into my classes. There was an energy and buzz that wasn't there before. I would like to thank her for doing that. She is fantastic and I can't wait to see where she goes from here.”
Kellie's parents Tara and Leslie thanked the council for honouring Kellie and everyone at the reception for celebrating her success.
"People don't understand when you have a child with special needs or a child with a disability that they don't get the recognition like other people do. For me it is great that Kellie is being recognised for all her hard work," said Tara.
She said at the world games the athletes were described as people with determination rather than people with special needs or an intellectual disability. "I have to say Kellie has that determination. She worked so, so hard. She never complained. She got up every day and did her training."
Mrs O'Donnell thanked Kellie's coach Anne Marie Cahill-Byrne, her pilates coach Ciara Conway and her brother Aaron who trained her at his Five Star Fitness Gym.
Kellie responded to the tributes by telling the reception the World Special Olympic Games were "an experience of a lifetime" for her. She thanked her family, coaches and friends for their support and recalled her journey to qualify for the world games, including the many hours of training.
Her hard work culminated in winning a gold medal at the national Special Olympic Games last year and she recalled the emotional day she learned she had been selected to represent Ireland at the World Games.
View more photos from the civic reception in this week's printed edition of The Nationalist.