BY CHRIS MCNULTY
THE FIRST of Donegal’s 2012 Olympians is in action this weekend.
On Sunday evening at the Wembley Arena, Raphoe girl Chloe Magee takes on Hadia Hosney from Egypt in the women’s singles badminton tournament at the Games of the 30th Olympiad in London.
Magee is one of four Donegal athletes to take part in this year’s Games. She is joined by Finn Valley AC pole vaulter Tori Pena, Letterkenny woman Caitriona Jennings in the women’s marathon and Milford 50k race walker Brendan Boyce.
The draw has been favourable enough to Magee, who is ranked number 44 in the world.
Her opponent in her opening game is ranked 113 in the world – and a win on Sunday would give her a real chance of getting out of the three-woman group.
The other woman who will stand between her and a place in the last 16 is France’s Pi Hongyan, who is ranked 25th and who she faces on Tuesday evening.
“The draw is very favourable. All I wanted was to have a chance of getting out of the group,” Magee told the Donegal News.
“All I wanted really was to avoid the Chinese.
“I can’t wait now to get started. I’m in good shape.
“I’m in with a chance. Look, the draw was never going to be ‘easy’ as such – this is the Olympics after all. I feel good. Training is going well and everything has been going to plan.”
On Sunday night, the 23-year old will become only the second double-Olympian from the county – following in the footsteps of Danny McDaid, who ran the men’s marathon in Montreal and Munich in the 1970s.
Donegal’s other competitors have a little longer to wait to get their slice of Olympic action. Next Saturday, August 4th, Tori Pena lines up for the women’s pole vault. The Californian has been with the Finn Valley club for the last couple of years and will be aiming to break her Irish record to aim for qualification for the Monday 6th final.
The following day, Sunday August 5th, Letterkenny woman Caitriona Jennings goes in the women’s marathon. Running out of the Rathfarnham club, Jennings has been in excellent form over the last twelve months. Brendan Boyce must wait until the penultimate day of the Games before he sees action – on Saturday August 11th the men’s 50k walk takes place.
Boyce, Jennings and Pena are part of the Athletics team which is managed by Finn Valley stalwart Patsy McGonagle. Joining the backroom team is nutritionalist Sharon Madigan, who is a native of the Ramelton Road in Letterkenny.
Elsewhere, Donegal is well represented. Some of the world’s top athletes, including men’s 100m star Usain Bolt, are looked after by the Pace Sports Management Agency, run by Milford man Ricky Simms. He has on his team Raphoe pair Grainne O’Dea and Darren O’Dea, who are also heavily involved on Olympic duty.
The Donegal connections don’t end there.
Female triathlete Aileen Morrison, from Derry, has strong ties to Donegal as her grandparents hailed from Malin, while canoeist Eoin Rheinisch will also have fans in Donegal cheering him on.
His aunt Anne Crossan – a sister of his father Donal – lives in Conwall. Her daughter-in-law, Maria McCambridge – married to four-times Irish marathon champ Gary Crossan – just missed out on a place in London, as she was pipped for selection for the women’s marathon team.
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