LOCAL girl Lucy Best was Lisburn’s ‘Flame of Hope’ as she carried the Special Olympics Flame through the city on Thursday during a special ‘Law Enforcement Torch Run’, with similar events taking place across the world, which will culminate with the arrival of the Flame of Hope in Pyeongchang, South Korea for the Opening Ceremony on Tuesday January 29.
Lucy, who leaves for South Korea today (Friday) to represent Team Ireland in Alpine Skiing events, lifted the flame at St Patrick’s Academy, Lisburn, before it moved on through the city and onto towns across Northern Ireland, where fellow athletes heading for the Games took their moment to shine.
The local skier, 21, is aiming for gold when she competes in the Slalom and Giant Slalom events.
It was a moment of great pride for Lucy’s family, who said it was ‘amazing’ to see her carry the Flame of Hope.
Lucy’s parents Lindsay and Joanne will also fly to South Korea to support their daughter during the Games, which will take place from January 29 to February 6.
Following the Torch Run, Lucy’s mum Joanne said: “The Torch Run was another unique and exciting opportunity for Lucy. We went to watch the Olympic torch being carried back in the summer for the London Olympics, but now to see Lucy carrying her own Flame of Hope in Lisburn is amazing.
“We would like to thank all the people behind the scenes who have put in alot of hard work to ensure it all goes smoothly. Lucy is excited and anxious, too, about Korea but hopes she makes everyone proud. We are so proud already.”
The Lisburn girl began skiing at 10 years old after her brother and sister had visited the slopes in Craigavon. A member of Ski-Ability NI, Lucy has also previously worked with the Silverwood Flyers in Craigavon who taught her the skills of Slalom racing.
Lucy will be joined by Rosalind Connolly from Portadown and Ryan Hill from Richill at the Games as part of Team Ireland and in preparation for the games, Rosalind, Lucy and Ryan have been put through their paces by coach Jill Sloan on the dry ski slopes in Craigavon, as well as on real snow in Maurau, Austria at the Special Olympics Snow Camp.
Looking ahead to the Special Olympics World Winter Games, coach Jill Sloan said: “Competing in the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games is an incredible honour for our Ulster athletes and gives them a unique opportunity to travel to South Korea to embrace the Olympic ideal. The selection of three Ulster Skiers to Team Ireland is testament to their hard work, dedication and talents. I am very proud of what they have accomplished to be selected as members of this group. The Special Olympics Winter World Games will undoubtedly be an amazing and historic event that will leave an indelible mark on those involved.”
Speaking about Thursday’s Law Enforcement Torch Run, Assistant Chief Constable, PSNI Will Kerr said: “The Police Service of Northern Ireland is proud to support the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run. Through the Law Enforcement Torch Run we will show our support for the Special Olympics athletes who will represent us all at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games.
“I would also like to wish the three Ulster athletes, along with the rest of their Team Ireland teammates all the very best at these Games. They have already shown themselves to be true sporting heroes and we look forward to following their progress in South Korea.”
These games will be the 10th Special Olympics World Winter Games and will bring together over 3,300 athletes from 112 countries. The 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games will feature world-class competition in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating and snowboarding among other sports.
Nick Harkness, acting chief executive, Sport NI said: “As one of the first major world sporting events of 2013, the Special Olympics World Winter Games will give participants from across the world an opportunity to showcase their abilities on the world stage.
“The talents, skills and dedication of the athletes of the Special Olympics will remind us what the World Games are really about - all participants are winners in their fight for respect, inclusion and unity.
“It therefore gives me great pleasure to support the 14 athletes and the 8 members of the management team representing Team Ireland in South Korea, and in particular, to the three skiers selected from the Ulster region. We send them all best wishes from Sport Northern Ireland and hope that all the athletes enjoy their experience on the World stage and perform to the best of their ability in Pyeongchang.”