For the competitors at this month’s world police and fire games in Northern Ireland, this was what it was all about: the prospect of a gold, silver or bronze medal. For many though, the joy came in competing against fellow police, emergency or fire and prison service members and the result did not matter. These medals were the last to be presented and were for the table tennis.
At each medal ceremony a team of volunteers was ready to help. They appeared at the Odyssey for the first medals in the novice section of the ice hockey on Tuesday 30th July, two days before the official start of the games. Then a team turned up at the Valley Leisure Centre in Newtownabbey for the table tennis medals presentations, two on Friday and two yesterday. Newtownabbey Mayor Fraser Agnew and Alastair Ross MLA were the guests on Friday. Yesterday the first ceremony at lunchtime featured the deputy Mayor Dineen Walker and for the last presentation we were joined by the Justice Minister David Ford MLA.
Although the USA topped the medals table (well they had the most competitors, over 900 of them), Norn Iron in eighth position (120 medals) performed quite well considering the number of participants from the PSNI. NIFRS and Prison Service of NI. Team Ireland did one better, finishing seventh and going home with 137 medals (40 gold 44 silver and 43 bronze). Four of them came in table tennis, thanks to Garda Louise long (a native of Cork, now based at Blackrock in County Dublin) taking bronze in the womens doubles with Susanne Eckholdt from Germany and also in the mixed doubles with a partner from the Fire Department in New York. Sergeant Adrian Flynn from Sligo, who assured me he most definitely had not yet reached the big 50 took a bronze in the mens singles DIVISION II yesterday, then partnered a policeman from Yorkshire to win the silver in the mens doubles DIVISION B.
Northern Ireland had a gold medal success thanks to jay McAllister (NIFRS) who partnered a player from Kazakhstan Vladimir Markin (Almaty FTHS) in the Grand Master doubles final.