Paralympics star honoured with open-top bus tour

Deputy Mayor Fraser Agnew welcomes double Paralympic gold medallist Michael McKillop to Mossley Mill. INNT 39-557-CON
Deputy Mayor Fraser Agnew welcomes double Paralympic gold medallist Michael McKillop to Mossley Mill. INNT 39-557-CON

Paralympics hero Michael McKillop went on a gold rush in Newtownabbey last week to celebrate his amazing success at the London Games.

The 22-year-old proudly showed off his winning medals to hundreds of well-wishers during an open-top bus tour of the borough on Wednesday.

Michael was also cheered on by scores of awe-struck pupils when he visited a number of schools.

And he hopes he can inspire a new generation of sports stars to emulate his success after he became a double gold medallist.

Michael, who has cerebral palsy, cemented his status as the world’s greatest Paralympic middle-distance runner when he won the T37 class 800m – setting a world record – and the T37 class 1,500M where he set a Paralympic record.

The welcome home tour, which was organised by Newtownabbey Borough Council, stopped along the way at places close to Michael’s heart.

The children at his former primary school, St MacNissi’s, were in for a massive treat as Michael stopped the bus and got off to greet them.

The pupils, along with 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.

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.

Michael said: “It was very nice to be honoured with an open-top bus tour and it’s not something you get everyday. Whenever I was told about it was something special.

“It was nice to get back to my old school and see the delight on the kids’ faces and hopefully I can inspire them and keep them interested until the Paralympic Games in Rio.”

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.

Michael added: “It was great to see all sides of the community see what I’ve achieved through sport.”

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.

Michael said: “It was great at the Abbeycentre as there were people waiting outside and people inside congratulating me and it was nice to that I’ve actually achieved something that the public know about and have witnessed.”

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.

Full story and more pictures in this week’s Times...