50 days to go: Dunne reaching for the stars at IWAS Youth World Games


Ireland’s Cillian Dunne has spoken of his excitement for his home International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) Youth World Games which open in 50 days time.

Ireland’s Cillian Dunne has spoken of his excitement for his home International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) Youth World Games which open in 50 days time in Athlone on 2 July.

The 21-year-old T54 wheelchair racer has already competed at several IWAS events in the past. However he confessed that preparing for a home Youth Games is a whole new ball game:

“It’s a lot more pressure. It’s more self-inflicted than anything but I’ve been chatting to my friends and telling them it’s a local Games and they’re all like ‘oh yeah we’ll definitely get supporter buses going up’. It’s hitting me now that it’s getting so close that so many people are going to come up to see us. It’s something I’ve always wanted as well because often when I tell people that I’m a wheelchair racer, they’re like ‘oh brilliant’ but they don’t see the work that goes in.

“We work just as hard as anyone so in that respect I can’t wait because then they’ll actually see how hard we work and how much we want this.”

Dunne is training twice a day, six days a week, for five races – 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m and 1,500m.

His times are coming down but the competitor inside him is not quite happy: “It’s not bad, but it could be better,” he said.

He has also not always been a track athlete. Before 2012 Dunne competed in javelin, shot put and discus. A major stomach operation saw him lose enough weight that he could not throw competitively anymore.

Cue an easy switch for the infectiously determined youngster, who has had a passion for athletics since the age of five.

“Athletics had definitely taken my fancy from day one. Naturally enough we went and geared towards racing. Took up racing and within a year and half I was back in the Irish squad and my first IWAS as a racer was Stadskanaal [the Netherlands in 2013],” he said.

It was an impressive comeback that led him to compete at Athlone 2018. But what are his long term aims?

“Irish records for 100, 200 and 400m and I would love to make it to Tokyo 2020, but there’s still a bit ahead for that. My dream is a Paralympic medal but for now I’m setting myself in different stages of goals. For now the Irish records are the nearest ones.”

Dunne is also targeting World Para Athletics events in the future. Like many before him, the IWAS Games have provided him with a good platform to build from.

“I got the bug and I’ve competed at them all the time because I love the atmosphere they bring and getting to meet different cultures and making new friends around the world. It’s definitely shaped me to be a racer in the future because I’m now going to different races around the world and because of my experiences with IWAS, I’m equipped to know where I should be with each race which I didn’t know before. It’s taught me a lot of things over the years as well.”

The young Irishman also dreams of helping to build the next generation in his country. He believes that Athlone 2018 has already made a difference to people’s awareness of Para sport, and that interest and participation will grow.

Born with spina bifida, Dunne wants to show the world what he is capable of.

“I’ve always wanted to show people that there’s ways around everything. So just because another person can climb stairs, doesn’t mean I can’t. I’ve often shown my friends, even just messing, when they’ll be like ‘oh you can’t catch me’ and I’ll be like ‘oh you want to bet’ and I’d go.

“I’ve always been like that. If they think I can’t do it I’ll always find a way.”

The 2018 IWAS Youth World Games will feature athletics, swimming, and table tennis and is expected to attract around 300 athletes to Athlone. More information is available at the IWAS website.

Photo credit: Mairead Hartnett