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Hard Work, Not Luck, Yields More Irish Success
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Irish gymnasts have special reason to celebrate St. Patrick's Day 2012, as male gymnast Kieran Behan earned an Olympic berth to London.

Irish gymnasts have special reason to celebrate St. Patrick's Day 2012, as male gymnast Kieran Behan earned an Olympic berth to London and female gymnast Sophie McCoo was recently named Junior Female Sportsperson of the Year by the Belfast City Council.

"It's pretty surreal and amazing to be recognized for doing my sport outside of the gymnastics community," the 16-year-old McCoo told IG. "This will motivate me to try harder, and it's great for younger gymnasts to look up to and see what is possible if you work hard."

Irish champion Sophie McCoo

McCoo said winning the Irish senior all-around title earlier this month was particularly meaningful to her.

"It's something I've been working towards," said McCoo, who is coached by Alison McMullan at Abbey Gymnastics Club in Belfast. "I remember going to watch the competition a few years back as a spectator and being really impressed with the standard, and could only dream then of winning something like this. To go to the event now as a competitor and win it is amazing."

Next on McCoo's agenda are the Tournament of Masters in Cottbus, Germany (March 22-25), and the European Championships in Brussels in May.

Also slated for the Irish team in Brussels are fellow seniors Emma Lunn (Excel) and Sarah Buckley (Douglas); and juniors Sarah Strawbridge (Salto), Sarah Beck (Salto) and Ciara Robert (Salto). Lunn placed second all-around to McCoo at the Irish senior championships.

Behan's qualification for this summer's Olympic Games in London is perhaps the most significant international accomplishment for the Irish program, but Irish gymnasts have reached other landmarks in the past decade.

At the 2001 World Championships in Ghent, Northern Ireland's Holly Murdock (representing Great Britain) placed 14th all-around, which was the best British women's all-around result in worlds history to that point. Northern Ireland's Katie Slader won the 2004 Northern European all-around title.

Success in Ireland has boosted McCoo's self-assurance, she said.

"It gives you more confidence because you know you can hit achievements well, and it makes you want to work harder," she told IG. "It's like that saying, 'Coming second is easier because you have something to work towards, whereas keeping number one is harder.' You have to be able to work through the hard days and be able to keep going."

International Gymnast magazine related features:

"Beyond Brave" – Kieran Behan profile (August/September 2011)
"Room to Grow" - Salto club feature (March 2009)
"Shooting Star: Sarah Beck" – profile (January/February 2009)
"International Gymnast" – Rohan Sebastian profile (April 2008)
"Rising Irishman" - Matthew Cosgrave profile (December 2007)
"Pride of Ireland" – Katie Slader profile (March 2005)
"Pressing Her Luck" – Holly Murdock profile (August/September 2001)

To order back issues, click here.

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