East Antrim athletes prepare for Tokyo Olympics

A year later than planned, five east Antrim sports stars are set to compete at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Friday, 23rd July 2021, 12:20 pm

Ahead of today’s opening ceremony, the Times looks at the athletes with links to east Antrim who will be competing in this summer’s games.

Team Ireland Hockey goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran will be hoping to shine in Japan. The Larne woman, who plays professionaly for Dutch club Kampong. was vital to the Green Army’s 2018 World Cup silver medal, where she was also Goalkeeper of the Tournament. A graduate of the University of Louisville and a four-time All-American pick, McFerran has twice been nominated for FIH World Goalkeeper of the Year.

Belfast boxing siblings, Michaela and Aidan Walsh fight out of Monkstown Boxing Club in Newtownabbey.

Danielle Hill.

Michaela won flyweight silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games where she was beaten in the final by the reigning Olympic champion Nicola Adams. In 2018, fighting at featherweight, she won bronze at the European Championships and a second Commonwealth silver. In 2019 she won seven of nine international fights and silver at the European Games. In 2021 she took silver at the final Olympic qualifying tournament, losing to Italy’s Irma Testa in the final. She had already secured Olympic qualification in the semi-final. Her weight class and the 69kg are the two new additions to the women’s programme.

Aidan won light welterweight gold at the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games and silver (at welterweight) at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

He had won one bout before the Olympic Qualifier in March 2020 was cancelled, but came back and won a bronze medal at the last qualifying tournament in June 2021. He lost to Britain’s Pat McCormack in the semi-final, but beating Ukraine’s Yevheni Barabandy in the quarterfinal secured his Olympic spot.

Jordanstown’s Stephanie Meadow will be appearing at her second Olympic Games when she tees off in Tokyo.

Ireland goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran.

Stephanie’s family moved to South Carolina when she was 13 to further her golf talent. She was the University of Alabama’s first four-time first-team All-American.

She was third in the US Open on her LPGA debut in 2014, got her LPGA tour card in 2015, but also lost her father Robert that year and struggled with a back injury in 2017.

In 2018 she won her first event on the second tier Symetra Tour and finishing sixth overall earned her back her LPGA Tour Card. In August 2019, she won the Handa World Invitational at Galgorm Castle. In 2021 she was tied 19th in the ANA Inspiration (the first Major). This is her second Olympics, after finishing tied 31st in Rio 2016.

Ireland’s fastest ever female swimmer, Dannielle Hill from Carnmoney, will be one to watch in Tokyo.

Stephanie Meadow. Pic by Philip Magowan / PressEye..

Danielle’s time of 1:00:18 at the Irish Olympic trials in June was also her latest Irish record. She was a Commonwealth Games finalist in 2018, a year in which she also dislocated her shoulder during training.

She was a finalist at the 2019 European SC Championships, is a student of Sport and Exercise Science at Ulster University Jordanstown. The Larne Swimming Club member is the fastest ever Irish female swimmer and holds senior records at 50/100m freestyle and 50/100m backstroke.

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Click here to read Hill excited ahead of Tokyo Olympic Games

Aidan and Michaela Walsh. Pic by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

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