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Friday, 22 February, 2002, 09:19 GMT

NI native wins Olympic gold

A Northern Ireland native is celebrating after helping Canada claim the gold medal in the women's ice hockey competition at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Lurgan-born Geraldine Heaney helped Canada defeat the United States 3-2 in an exciting final.

Afterwards, the 34-year-old dedicated her triumph to her uncle Seamus who died in October.

"I can't believe it's even being televised in Ireland," said Geraldine who was nine months old where her parents Kathleen and Michael emigrated to Canada.

"My mum has been phoning my relatives and telling them when the games are on.

"I went over there after the last Olympics and brought the medal.

"I'll be going back in May and June to visit them to show them the gold and just to have a great time.

"Some of the players, once in a while, think I still have the Irish accent.

"My parents have a very strong accent.

"The players know I'm true Irish," she added.

Her one regret was that her uncle Seamus was not alive to see the victory.

"He was my number one fan and came out every year to watch me play hockey. This was for him as well," she added.

Canada's victory avenged the defeat they suffered at American hands four years ago in Nagano, and is the country's first Olympic ice hockey gold in 50 years.

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