Nicole Smith has more gold medals - and a car - in her sights when she competes in Poland
By Alex Gulrajani
BBC Sport NI
In 2003, Special Olympics fever swept through Ireland. Teams from Iraq, Kosovo and the USA were welcomed to Dublin by Bono, Muhammad Ali and Roy Keane.
A unique sporting tournament, the Special Olympics recognises the value and gifts of people with intellectual disabilities.
Seven years on, 34 athletes from Ireland are off to Poland, this time to compete in the European Games of the Special Olympics.
The squad was selected from the All-Ireland Games in Limerick with Newtownards teenager Nicole Smith confirming her seat on the plane to Warsaw with two gold medals.
The 16-year-old won 100m gold in under 15 seconds before flying over four metres to seal the long jump title.
Nicole Smith won two golds at the All-Ireland Games in Limerick
The trophy cabinet in bursting full at her home with medals and cups from years of competing - making her parents Jim and Georgie extremely proud.
"It is a privilege and an honour for her to be a part of it and for us as well," mum Georgie told BBC Sport.
"It has built her confidence and self-esteem. It is a safe environment for her with all her friends and she really enjoys it."
And the young woman herself? Well she cannot wait to add to her tally of medals and has an extra incentive for winning gold.
"Whenever I am over there it will be my daddy's birthday and instead of bringing him back presents and gifts, I would like to give him back medals," which was quickly followed by, "and if I do that then I'll get a car for my 17th!"
"Representing Ireland makes me feel proud of myself and happy," added Nicole. "I am an athlete and God gave me this gift."
Her father Jim is just as excited as Nicole and couldn't hide it when we caught up with the family before the young sprinter departed for Poland.
"I can't wait. Win, lose or draw it is going to be a great time for her and all the athletes. All the athletes are so special, they really are."
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