“Being named on the panel is always a notable step on the journey to secure Paralympic Games qualification for an athlete."
The panel will come together for the first time as a group in March when they meet for the initial multi-sport training camp of the Rio cycle in Limerick.
Dave Malone, Paralympics Ireland Performance Manager said: “Being named on the panel is always a notable step on the journey to secure Paralympic Games qualification for an athlete. We are looking forward to the first engagement as one entity in Limerick in what is set to be another busy year with a European or World Championships as the focus for the majority of athletes.”
The panel boasts several London 2012 medallists including athletes Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop, swimmer Darragh McDonald and handcyclist Mark Rohan. Also notable is the welcome return of the 7-a-side CP football squad who agonisingly missed out on London 2012 qualification. Promisingly, there is one athlete each from the two sports set to make their Paralympic debut in Rio; canoeing and triathlon, on the panel.
Alongside those named an additional 20 athletes from 11 sports will attend the Limerick camp under Paralympics Ireland’s new Fast Track Programme. This programme provides ring fenced supports for promising athletes that have emerged from the post London 2012 talent search.
With the 2016 Paralympic Games Qualification guide recently published by the International Paralympic Committee targets can clearly be set ahead of the qualification period opening in early 2014. The year ahead will provide many competition opportunities with European Championships in swimming, athletics and football, and World Championships in track and road Para-cycling, amongst others.
Some notable retirements following the 2012 Games include six-time Paralympian Catherine Walsh, who claimed tandem cycling silver and bronze in London. Distinguished and decorated boccia players Gay Shelly and Tom Leahy step aside after five and eight Paralympic Games respectively.
Following Equestrian Dressage team bronze at London 2012, double Paralympian Eilish Byrne and horse Youri have retired, as has fellow double Paralympian table tennis player Eimear Breathnach who now chairs the Athletes Commission at Paralympics Ireland.