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Last Updated: Monday, 30 August, 2004, 16:42 GMT 17:42 UK
Hero O'Connor back home
Cian O'Connor is greeted at Dublin airport
Cian O'Connor claimed Ireland's only medal in Athens
Olympic show jumping champion Cian O'Connor and the other members of the Irish team have arrived home.

The Kildare man, who received a hero's welcome at Dublin airport, said that receiving the gold medal, had been the "most emotional moment of my life."

"I felt very proud to be Irish," said the 24-year-old.

Despite his win, it's not certain he will be able to keep his horse Waterford Crystal as its owners had indicated an intention to sell it.

"It was mentioned before Athens that the horse might be sold so that I could buy a younger horse but I'll leave it up to the owners."

O'Connor added that he hoped that his victory would lead to an increased profile for show jumping.

"The sport has been thriving here for years. The team were European Champions in 2001 and Dermot Lennon is the current world champion but for some reason, it wasn't getting the coverage it deserved.

"Hopefully this will bring it into a new light and allow people to keep the class horses in Ireland because we have the riders."

I have had tremendous co-operation from the OCI
Irish sports minister John O'Donoghue

Irish sports minister John O'Donoghue was among the dignitaries at Dublin Airport to meet the Olympic champion.

Mr O'Donoghue paid tribute to O'Connor and the other members of the Irish squad.

"I would like to thank each and every one of them for the efforts which they have put in," he said.

The minister also was careful to distance himself from criticism directed at the controversial Olympic Council of Ireland president Pat Hickey by his Fianna Fail colleague Jim McDaid.

Former Irish sports minister McDaid had described Hickey as "divisive, corrosive and a national embarrassment."

In contrast, Mr O'Donoghue said he had an "outstanding relationship" with Hickey.

"I have had tremendous co-operation from the OCI.

"In my experience, they are giving their all in the interests of Irish sport."

The Olympic champion attended a welcome home party in his home town of Rathoath in county Meath on Monday evening and a state reception will take place in Dublin later this week.



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O'Connor jumps to gold
27 Aug 04  |  Equestrian


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