In a world where social media plays a huge role in sharing stories of rags to riches in business, sport and life, we sometimes forget that greatness is right on our own doorsteps.
You don’t have to follow the likes of David Beckham, LeBron James, Will Smith or Bill Gates to be inspired.
A few weekends ago 1,600 athletes competed in the Ireland Special Olympic Games, nine of which were from the Omagh Spires Special Olympic Club.
They came home with five gold, seven silver and one bronze medal. What an unbelievable achievement from these nine athletes.
I had extra interest in these games as one of the athletes was my cousin Kevin Hagan.
Kevin, who has Down Syndrome, won two silver medals in bocce – one silver with his doubles partner Jarlath Mullan and the other from his singles competition.
This was no walk in the park and not as easy as just ‘showing up’. The games and their rules and regulations are of a very high standard which they must be for an Olympic level.
The competition can be fierce at this level and there was even a hint of sportsmanship at these games but we won’t get into that.
In order to compete at this level, you need to be dedicated and work hard. These two qualities are the same for any high achievers.
Kevin trained every Wednesday night in Omagh Leisure Complex with the rest of his bocce team.
The level of commitment and enthusiasm that Kevin showed to his sport was inspiring especially for his family who constantly had to lift and collect Kevin, not just on Wednesday’s but for his other activities like swimming.
At times they found it hard to juggle their own life commitments but the joy and sense of pride they felt watching him stand on the podium was all worth it.
It’s not just his athletic ability but more so his personality that you can derive inspiration from.
He is a local celebrity in his hometown of Fintona. He and his family play a huge role in the local community from organising events to their involvement in the local GAA club. He is everyone’s friend and the first person at any event and normally the last to leave, especially if there is music and dancing involved.
And yes, he likes his soft drinks and party food, but who doesn’t!
If you haven’t already, I hope someday you meet Kevin or some of the other fantastic local athletes so they can share their story with you.
The first thing you will notice is that they are a very determined bunch of athletes when it comes to their sport.
They don’t let any disabilities hold them back, the way it should be. There is no such thing as disability, it’s about embracing the ability that you have.
I will leave you with a few words of behalf of Kevin’s father, Kevin senior; “We are very proud of Kevin, he is an inspiration to us all and is the leading figure in our family circle. He loves playing and watching all sport.
It is great to reflect on all of Kevin’s achievements and I am very proud of my son and what he has done for his family, team-mates, parish and more importantly himself. On top of this he still finds time to be Tyrone’s number one supporter.”