It was a proud day for Newtownabbey as double Paralympic gold medallist Michael McKillop took an open top bus tour around his local area and was greeted with lots of supporters and local school children who came out to welcome the local hero and show their appreciation for the athlete.
The tour, which was organised by Newtownabbey Borough Council after being inspired watching Michael’s amazing success in the Paralympic games, took place on 19 September and stopped along the way at places close to Michael’s heart. The children at Michael’s former primary school, St Macnissis in Carnmoney were in for a massive treat as the gold medal winner stopped the bus and got off to greet them. The pupils, along with their teachers and parents were ecstatic as Michael spoke in a special assembly about his success at London 2012. In his speech Michael discussed his hopes that future generations would focus on the ability rather than the disability of people, something which he has displayed himself throughout the games and it was a moment of pride for the school as they presented Michael with a photo of his first ever race in primary six. The children, who were also joined by pupils from Mossley Primary School and St Mary’s on the Hill, were then allowed to ask the gold medallist questions, much to their delight!
The bus then continued to the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice, a cause which Michael has supported previously through participating in fundraising races. Along the route, several schools including Glengormley High, Mossgrove Primary, Earlview Primary and St Bernard’s braved the rain and came out to cheer him along!
The next stop for Michael was the Abbeycentre where he was met by members of the public wishing to catch a glimpse of the sporting star and Michael was more than happy to get photographs taken with his fans.
The bus then made its way along the last part of the route before ending at Mossley Mill where a reception was held in Michael’s honour. Speaking at the event, the Mayor of Newtownabbey Alderman Victor Robinson said ‘It gives me great pleasure to welcome home our double gold Paralympic medallist Michael McKillop. Newtownabbey is glowing with pride that the greatest middle distance Paralympian, as described by the media, is one of our citizens.
What makes us even prouder is that whilst Michael achieved fantastic results on the track, winning gold medals in the T37 800M setting a world record and the T37 1500M where he set a Paralympic record, his success continued off track. Winning the Whang, Youn Dai Achievement Award at the closing ceremony for the male athlete who best exemplified the spirit of the Paralympic games shows that his attitude is as great as his skills, something which is another tremendous achievement in its own right.’
Sainsbury’s, Official Supermarket Partner of the London 2012 Paralympic Games also supported the day, giving out free goodie bags to the school children.