SHE’S Dunlavin’s answer to Katie Taylor … and this week Helen Kearney will return home to a hero’s welcome.
The 23-year-old came away with an impressive haul of three medals from the Paralympic Games in London and will be heralded in her home town on Saturday.
Helen suffers from Friedreich’s Ataxia, an illness which causes progressive damage to the nervous system.
But she didn’t let that get in the way of her medal glory, as she racked up a fantastic tally at her first ever Paralympic Games.
“I’m over the moon. It was my first games and I just wanted to have a good performance. To get three medals is beyond my expectations,” an overjoyed Helen told The Nationalist. “It’s incredible. I never thought I would be performing before such huge crowds.”
On Sunday 2 September, Helen secured silver in the grade 1A individual dressage competition, before catapulting the Irish team into third position in the team event, and then, last Tuesday, she was once more on the podium when she took bronze in the individual freestyle event.
“The team medal in particular, I’m so excited about that. It’s amazing to think we’ve come from not being able to qualify a team to being bronze medal winners. It’s unbelievable,” beamed Helen, who flew home yesterday (Monday).
Speaking to The Nationalist before she left the Olympic Village, Helen admitted she was still “in a bubble”.
“You’re very much in a bubble here. I can’t wait to go home, everyone’s been saying about the buzz back home but you don’t know ‘til you get home. It’ll be amazing.
I’m sure there’ll be a big homecoming,” added Helen, whose proud parents Mary and Michael, siblings John and Brona, and her extended family, friends and neighbours have been cheering her on in London.
And plans for the homecoming are well underway, with organisers appealing for volunteers to help with this weekend’s celebrations.
On Saturday between 3pm and 5pm, the town will be alive with colour and cheer as Helen returns home and is honoured with a parade through the town to the GAA club.
Anyone interested in helping out or taking part is asked to contact the parish centre on 045 401871.