“Uh oh, I hadn’t thought about wearing a swim suit, I guess it’s time to get to the gym now too. I actually enjoy people speaking with me about football but at the side of a swimming pool half naked will be a new experience."
The Dublin 2018 World Para Swimming Allianz European Championships starts in 100 days and the Para swimmers are not the only ones getting ready for action. Irish football legend and former Premier League star Niall Quinn is one of the Dublin 2018 ambassadors and, as part of his official duties, will compete in a 50m race during the championships.
But he admits swimming is not among his greatest talents.
“I am useless [at swimming] if the truth be known but the competitive side of me still lurks away in my head so I’ll be secretly swimming half lengths in the build-up,” Quinn said. “I remember first going to Templeogue Pool with my primary school and getting a bad tip from one of my mates not to do the beginner class as you’d not swim properly for months so I joined the ‘able swimmer’ class. Big mistake, as I nearly drowned and developed terrible bad habits that have gone uncorrected to this day.”
The group of eight Dublin 2018 ambassadors also includes former Ireland rugby union star Gordon D’Arcy, athletics Olympian Jessie Barr and women’s football striker Amber Barrett. Quinn says that he is a big Para sports fan and felt honoured by the invitation.
“I was delighted to be approached to take part in this event. Paralympians hold a special place in Irish hearts, they inspire each and every one of us and they are proof that, with talent and determination, nothing can stop you reaching your goals. Dublin 2018 will be a great event and something that my family and I are really looking forward to and I can’t wait to be involved as an ambassador. It’s a privilege,” said the former Arsenal, Manchester City and Sunderland striker.
“I love to watch Para sports, especially the Paralympic Games. To me Para sports are totally inspiring. The athletes themselves are incredible as is their level of performance. I have been fortunate to play sport at a high level so I understand the discipline and self-sacrifice required to succeed. Seeing the standards that Para athletes set in competition and on the training ground proves that they rightly sit amongst the upper echelons of the sporting elite.”
The Para Swimming Allianz European Championships is the biggest Para sport event ever to take place in Ireland with around 500 athletes from 40 countries. Niall Quinn has great expectations for the event as he knows what to wait from the home crowd.
“This means so much to our country. It really puts Ireland on the map as a destination for major sporting events. We all know Irish people love their sport and that they will really embrace this event. The Irish Paralympic team really captured the imagination of our sporting public at London and Rio and now we have a chance to see our athletes up close and personally as they race in an Irish pool in front of home support. I think that a big home crowd can also help inspire our athletes to success in the pool so I hope that the Irish sporting public come out in big numbers to support the event and the great athletes of Team Ireland.”
Back to the European Championships Ambassador Challenge, Quinn says that, although he does not plan to disturb Irish swimmers Ellen Keane and Nicole Turner’s preparations for Dublin 2018, he plans to get some very much needed tips from the experts.
“I have not been speaking to Ellen or Nicole yet but intend to very soon, though my lack of ability will certainly challenge their mentor skills. I am really looking forward to picking their brains. Who better to learn a few handy pointers from than outstanding athletes who have competed at the Paralympic Games and who will be competing for European medals in August.”
As a football pundit and former star, he is used to people speaking with him about football and he knows it might happen anywhere, even at the Para Swimming European Championships. Although it would probably be the first time he would have to chat about football wearing a swim suit.
“Uh oh, I hadn’t thought about wearing a swim suit, I guess it’s time to get to the gym now too. I actually enjoy people speaking with me about football but at the side of a swimming pool half naked will be a new experience. However, the focus really is not on football, me or the other seven ambassadors, it will be about the 500 fabulous athletes that have come to Dublin to compete for gold. I am so looking forward to being involved in the event and as long as I complete the 50m and avoid needing the life guard, I will be happy.”
More information on Dublin 2018 can be found on the event website.