The 2012 London Paralympics opened last night, setting in train an 11 day feast of sport, and among the 2,400 competitors from all over the world were three athletes from the Mallow area, Johnny Cronin, Tom Leahy and Anthony Hegarty.

Johnny is no stranger to the Paralympics, as he won a gold medal in the Sydney Games in 2000. He became involved in boccia in 1996 and has competed in nearly every major championship since 1997, winning bronze at the World Championships in 1998, two silver at the 1999 World Cup in Argentina, two bronze in Portugal in 2002, and silver at the 2006 World Cup in Brazil and also at the 2009 European Championships in Portugal.

Johnny is a familiar face in Mallow as he trains regularly in the ballroom of the Hibernian Hotel and his dedication to training is legendary. Tom Leahy is from Ballyhooly, but is a familiar figure in Mallow too as he regularly visits the Gilbert Centre in Fair Street. This is his 8th Paralympic Games and he has an amazing record in competition, winning a silver medal for boccia in the Atlanta Games in 1996 and discus gold in Sydney 2000. In London, Tom will compete in individual and team boccia.

Anthony Hegarty has been sailing since 2005 and has represented Ireland since then on a number of occasions. Anthony and team mates John Twomey and Ian Costelloe were placed 7th at this year’s World Championships and are hoping to feature in the medals at London.

Many of the events in London will be televised in the coming days and for those wishing to see Johnny, Tom and Anthony in action, the boccia team events will be held from Sunday to Tuesday and the individual events from Wednesday to Saturday. The sailing competitions will run from Saturday to Thursday. Best wishes are extended to the 49-strong Ireland squad and to Johnny, Tom and Anthony in particular. Hopefully they will come home laden with medals!