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20/09/2021

Ecstasy in Garyhinch where family celebrate Nicole Turner's silver medal on Laois Offaly border

"Ecstatic" is how Nicole Turner's mum Bernie described how she and the rest of her family responded to the the silver medal performance at the Paralymics in in Tokyo.  

Bernie, dad Jason, sons Daniel and Ciarán and other family gathered on Monday in front of the big screen with neighbours in Garryhinch to watch the final of the Butterfly event which Nicole had targeted for a medal at the games.

Laura Keane, mother of Ellen Keane, Ireland's Gold medal winner in Tokyo, was also at the Turner home in on the Laois Offaly border to support the Turners during the race.

Mum Bernie has been with Nicole at every step of the way in her career so far and was understandably on edge but at the confident in her daughter at the same time.

"I was just thinking before the race. Just do it Nicole, just do it. She was fabulous form starting with her freestyle. She believed in herself and that was half the battle," said Bernie.

Nicole's mum says Nicole has had to give up a lot to win a medal.

"She sacrificed a lot. She sacrificed her Leaving Certs, her birthdays, people's confirmations. With swimming you have have to make the commitment to keep the stamina up. You cannot get away with missing training and she never did," she said.

But Bernie adds that her daughter wanted to make the sacrifices.

"She has got what she wanted now hasn't she," she said.

Because of the all the hard work, Bernie hoped that Nicole would not fall short and finish fourth as she had done in Rio in 2016.

"I wanted her to get a medal and I didn't want her to finish fourth because of all the training over the past five years," she said.

Bernie says Nicole was aged five. That was shortly before Nicole was confirmed as being a person of small stature. In 2009 Nicole travelled to Belfast with her parents to compete in the World Dwarf Games.

"We took her just to meet other little people but she competed at athletics and swimming and won all around her. She won four gold medals at that," she said.

Bernie says another big piece of the jigsaw was joining the Piranha Swimming Club in Portarlington under the guidance of Emer Matthews. She also paid tribute to the Portarlington Leisure Centre.

"Sean Quirke and all at the Portarlington Leisure Centre go above and beyond for Nicole. If she can't swim in Dublin the Leisure Centre staff will put lane in the pool for Nicole any time of the day. She also has a gold membership charge which means there is no fee," she said.

Bernie says the leisure centre's support is just one of the many ways in which the community has got behind Nicole. 

"If Nicole needs any training gear, Aidan Colgan will get it for her and there is no charge. He says it's a privilege to to have such a superstar in Portarlington," she said.

As to county loyalties, the family live just inside the Offaly border, but for years thought they lived in Laois. Bernie who was born and raised in Rochdale near Manchester explains the background.

"When we bought our house in 2001, we were told by the solictors in Portarlington that it was Laois and we always used to use Laois. It was only through the GAA and the Offaly flag went up next door that the neighours told us we lived in Offaly. We are 300 metres from the border with Laois," she said.

At the end of the day Bernie doesn't mind what county claims her hero.

"If Laois want her or if Offaly want her it doesn't matter. They can all have her," she said.

However, one of her son's definitely Offaly. Ciarán wore the Offaly jersey for Nicole's race, the same one he wore to see the Faithful win the All-Ireland U-20 final in Croke Park recently.

"Apart from today, that was probably the best day of his life," said Bernie.

Race day also marked a special day for the family as it marked the first time in two years that Bernie has seen her mother, Bridget, who lives in Birr.

Bernie and Jason were both raised in Rochdale and met in the local Tara Irish Centre. They came to Ireland when Nicole's dad got work here. They couldn't afford to buy in Naas and bought the house they now live in on a visit to friends in Cloneygowan. They've never looked back.

"It is the best community. They welcomed us with opened arms. That's why we are still here," he said.

While Bernie would have loved to have been in Japan to seen her daughter win the medal at the pool she said celebrating with her family and the neighbours more than made up for that disappointment.

"The plus side was that we were able celebrate with the community which we wouldn't have been able to do if we were in Tokyo," she said.  

As to what come's next Bernie is just looking to welcoming Nicole home from Japan in the coming days. Bernie spoke to her elated but also relieved daughter soon after the race. She reminded her not to forget something. 

"We had a laugh because whenever Nicole wins a medal she always forgets to bring the box for it home. I said to her don't forget the box. She burst out laughing and told me to relax," said. 

While Nicole is finished in Japan, her next adventure is just around the corner in France in 2024 for the Paris Paralympics. 

Who knows, Nicole could be celebrating Garyhinch's next Golden girl in 2024.

Watch: Silver medal still hasn't sunk in for Portarlington's Paralympian Nicole Turner

Never in a million years did Nicole Turner expect to be wearing a Paralympic medal but now she is. Watch who the remarkable young Portarlington girl reacted to her silver.

In pictures: Portarlington's Nicole Turner is a sliver star at Tokyo's Paralympics

Dreams came through for Portarlington woman Nicole Turner whose years of work paid off in the pool in Tokyo after she claimed sliver at the Paralymics. Scroll through the pictures from Sportsfile to see some of the action.

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