Ireland's youngest Paralympic athlete Nicole Turner returned to a joyous reception at Coláiste Iosagáin Portarlington this morning.
Almost 1,000 of her fellow students packed the school hall and chanted “let's go Turner let's go!” as they had done while watching Nicole's events in Rio, live in on the big screen in school.
She was presented with an engraved plaque by the Principal Seamus Bennett, and took to the stage herself to thank the school.
“Thank you all, for all the messages I got, the video of you supporting me really guided me on,” said Nicole, 14, who is starting second year.
Her mother Bernie was presented with a bouquet by vice principal Siobhán Higgins for being “one of the best mammies in Ireland”.
Bernie told the students about Nicole's rise to success, from the shock of her diagnosis of dwarfism at the age of 6, to qualifying for five finals in Rio.
“She proves that if you have a disability and you enjoy sport, if you work hard you can achieve your dream, and there's always Tokyo,” her proud mam said.
Ms Higgins said Nicole has inspired staff and students to use their gifts well and follow their dreams.
“How proud we are of a pocket rocket called Nicole,” she said.
Nicole spoke to the Leinster Express afterwards.
“Today was unbelievable, I was really excited to come back, I would like to thank the school for all their support, they even fundraised to help with going to Rio,” she said.
She is taking a welcome break from training.
“I have been training solid for a year and a half. I was exhausted when I got home, but I've picked up now. I will start back competing in the new year,” she said.
She has a positive message to others with a disability.
“If you're good in sport, keep it up and you will get something out of it,” she added.
The town will host a homecoming for Nicole in the Community Centre this Saturday at 4pm.
See next Tuesday's Leinster Express for more.
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