Larne paralympian Claire thanks local supporters

Larne's Claire Taggart and her dad Stephen in Rio during the Paralympics. INLT-39-704-con

Larne's Claire Taggart and her dad Stephen in Rio during the Paralympics. INLT-39-704-con

Larne Paralympian Claire Taggart has thanked local people for their unwavering support after returning from Rio 2016.

The GB Boccia athlete jetted back home on the specially-charted Team GB plane on Tuesday, and Northern Ireland athletes received a hero’s welcome at Belfast City Airport.

Local girl Claire, who shared an apartment in Rio with quadruple medal winner and Seaforde swimming sensation Bethany Firth, described her experience at the games as “amazing” and revealed that she is already hoping to compete in Tokyo 2020.

“The atmosphere was like a 24/7 party and the Brazilian people were lovely and very welcoming,” she told the Times.

“The opening ceremony was crazy; I had never heard so much noise before as when we walked into the Maracanã stadium and it brought into perspective what I was there to do.

“It was a great experience until it started to rain, and then I had to leave as rain and electric wheelchairs don’t mix well!”

Claire, who suffers from dystonia, was accompanied to Rio by her Dad Stephen, who helped care for her during the trip.

“It was nice to have a friendly face and we worked quite well together as a team,” she continued.

“We arrived on September 2, then started training on September 4, and we started competing on September 10.

“We were knocked out in the quarter finals and we know what we need to do to improve, we all believed we could medal and we were just unlucky.”

Claire says she slept through most of the ten-hour flight from Rio, and was overjoyed to be reunited with her proud mum Maggie, friend Jess and staff from Disability Sports NI at the airport.

She is currently recovering from jet lag after the 12-hour flight and will then take a few months off before resuming training, in the hopes of being selected for the 2020 GB Boccia team headed to the Tokyo Paralympics.

However, it won’t be all work and no play for the Larne athlete and animal lover, who is planning to add to her menagerie of pets.

“We lost our dog Ben on New Years’ Eve and we are getting a border collie puppy called Rio soon,” she revealed.

“Before I wasn’t here enough to look after a dog but I will be able to now.

“I also have six tortoises and two bearded dragons called Luna and Bella.”

Claire also paid tribute to the local support without which she says she would have been unable to fulfil her Rio dream.

“I would like to thank everybody in Larne who has helped me,” she said.

“Larne Sports Development, Disability Sports NI, and all my friends and family who have supported me, it means an awful lot.

“Without it I couldn’t even have gone to the competition.”

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