A SPORTS-MAD Larne youngster has scooped a medal in his first ever appearance at the World Sport Stacking Championships.
Andrew Morton, a Year 8 pupil at Larne Grammar School, was part of the All-Ireland team taking part in the competition in Germany at the weekend.
The 12-year-old was the only Northern Irish competitor who travelled to the championships near Frankfurt for two days of intense competition on Saturday and Sunday, having come first in the NI finals and successfully completed the All-Ireland heats in Dublin.
Sport stacking - also known as cup stacking or speed stacking - is an individual and team-based sport that involves stacking specialized plastic cups in specific sequences in as little time as possible.
And having come through the heats on Saturday with flying colours, Andrew qualified for the final of the competition on Sunday in the under 12 section, finishing in 10th place with a coveted medal in the keenly contested category.
Andrew’s proud dad Alan, who travelled to Germany with his son, told the Times: “Andrew is over the moon with his achievement. This was his first major tournament and he has returned home with a medal, and his mother and I are delighted for him.
“Andrew achieved a time of 1.97 seconds in his event, the 3-3-3 cycle, which was just 0.4 of a second behind the world record. He was a bit overwhelmed at the whole experience, as he had never performed on such a big stage before. There were over 300 stackers at the championships aged from six to 60, and Andrew got to meet a lot of his heroes, which was fantastic for him.
“There was a lot of pressure on these young people, but Andrew and the rest of the All-Ireland team performed exceptionally well. They had a great championship and came home with a record tally of 32 medals.”
Andrew became hooked on speed stacking after watching a demonstration when he was a P7 pupil at Olderfleet Primary, and Alan said he has noticed a big change in his son since he took up the sport just over a year ago.
“Speed stacking has real benefits for children’s hand-to-eye coordination and concentration levels, and there has been a big improvement in Andrew’s school work since he became involved in the sport,” he added.
“It is a real cross-community sport and there is no malice between the youngsters, as they all congratulate each other on their successes.”
Alan also took the opportunity to get involved in speed stacking at world championships, taking part in a doubles event with his son. However, things did not go as smoothly as he may have liked.
“The less said about my performance the better,” he joked. “When we were practising at home together, we were hitting about 15 seconds, but with the pressure on the day that time dropped to about 21 seconds. Maybe Andrew’s mum will give it a go next time!”
Coach of the All-Ireland side, Micheal Nolan was thrilled at his team’s display and said: “We came away from the World Championships in Dallas last year with nothing, despite some very quick times and personal bests. This is a phenomenal result and I’m thrilled for Andrew. Having him on the team was fantastic – it really made it an island of Ireland team and he’s been a fantastic competitor.
“I’m delighted for the team and for their parents and we are particularly thankful to our sponsors, Fruice Dilute, who have been with us all the way. This would not have been possible without them,” he concluded.