Wildcat duo off to World Winter Games

by Karl Graham
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BALLYFERMOT duo Thomas Caulfield and Lorcan Byrne both jetted out this week to represent Ireland at the Special Olympics Winter Games in Austria on Tuesday morning.
They are both part of the 36-strong Irish delegation, including 26 athletes, to take part in the Games with the pair playing in the floorball competition.
Both have strong backgrounds in Special Olympics, playing in a number of different disciplines in the past.
The 25-year-old Caulfield represented Ireland last year in 11-a-side soccer at the World Summer Games in Los Angeles, while Byrne, a decade older than his teammate, won four gold medals for aquatics in 2010.
This time around they will play floorball, a hockey-style game that is played in a four vs four format in the Special Olympics, compared to the six vs six mainstream version.
It originated in Sweden during the 1960s and is played indoors. It is a fast game which enables athletes to develop speed, power and agility along with team spirit.
The game was played as an exhibition sport at the previous Games so it is making its official debut at the event this year.
Both players also play basketball together for the Palmerstown Wildcats which is where they were introduced to floorball for the first time.
Caulfield, in particular, is a sporting chameleon of sorts as he also plays soccer for United Warriors as well as competing in swimming and athletics.
He has spoken in the past about how the Special Olympics has changed his life by inspiring him to get involved in sport.
As is the case with many Special Olympics athletes, they don’t restrict themselves to one sport. Like Caulfield, Byrne is also a man of many talents as he takes part in athletics and bowling on top of the aquatics and basketball.
He also played soccer but had to stop after picking up an ankle injury.
The Winter Games themselves consist of nine sports – alpine skiing, cross country, floor hockey, figure skating, snowboarding, speed skating, snow shoeing and stick shooting, as well as floorball – that will see over 100 different countries compete.
Out of the 3,000 athletes who will be involved, 26 of them will be representing Ireland as they try to land medals in alpine skiing and floorball.

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