BY CHRIS MCNULTY IN RAPHOE
RAPHOE stood still on Friday night as Olympian Chloe Magee was welcomed back into her homeland.
The 23-year old is back from her second Olympic Games after also competing in Beijing four years ago.
This time, Magee again competed with the world’s finest – forcing the former world number 2 Hongyan Pi to three sets before falling just short.
Raphoe fell silent during Magee’s two games in London and the historical town was again at a standstill for the homecoming of their local hero.
The Cathedral bells had just chimed for 8 o’clock when the Raphoe pipe band played her into The Diamond. Four years ago, the crowds so swelled the badminton hall, which sits just off The Diamond, that organisers held an open air homecoming this time around.
Magee was joined on the stage by fellow Donegal Olympian Brendan Boyce, the Milford race walker who set a new personal best in the 50k walk in London.
The link between the two is remarkable. Chloe’s mum Audrey and Brendan’s dad Mandy grew up next to each other in the Milford townland of Cratlagh. Their paths took them different directions, but they’ve become linked again with their children’s Olympic exploits.
“I can’t believe how many people have come out,” Magee told her adorning people.
“It is pretty incredible the support I’ve been getting. There is so much to it.
“In London, I did my best and I had a really good time. I could have won the second game, but I’ll live and learn.
“I have been to two Olympics, but third time lucky and all of that.”
Alan Macbeth of the Donegal Badminton Branch said that Chloe’s Olympic achievements had filled them with a ‘great sense of pride’.
It was with the Raphoe Badminton Club that Chloe cut her teeth in the sport – and club secretary Valerie Magee spoke of the ‘gritty determination’ shown by their young star in London.
She said: “To achieve Olympic status not once, but twice, is truly magnificent and is something that very few people can claim.
“Even during those early days playing recreational badminton it was clearly evident that she had a natural talent.
“She has never forgotten her roots and as a club we are very proud of her achievements.
“She is a shining example of what can be achieved through a combination of guts, talent and hard work.”
Liam Porter of Raphoe Town FC urged the young people present to be inspired by Chloe.
He said: “Anyone involved in sport knows that playing at the very highest level is the stuff dreams are made of. To be able to compete in one Olympics is phenomenal, but to compete in two is just amazing.
“It takes more than a desire. It takes an awful lot of hard work. You have to put in long, hard hours and if you really want to reach the top that is what it takes.
“Be inspired by Chloe. Realise that if you want to do it, you too can reach the top.”
Tributes also came from Margeret McKnight (Raphoe ladies hockey), Dr Harold Walsh (Royal and Prior), Malcom Thompson (ICSA), Graham Bell (Raphoe Pres Bowling Club), Dan O’Kane (St Eunan’s Bowling Club), Fr Dinny McGettigan and Rev Brown.
Local cllr Gerry Crawford said that Raphoe was welcoming back its own golden girl.
He said: “What we see on television is a snapshot in time, but in a wider picture Chloe Magee is the total person.”
Raphoe gave a Diamond homecoming to the new jewel in the town’s crown – and few would bet on further success in four years’ time in Rio.