Teresa Egan Interviews Ronan Rooney
" Never before has the phrase "So near yet so far" been so true... not that I believe that I was near to a Paralympic medal, but I was certainly near to having a good tournament. As it happened, measured by cold and harsh results, it was almost disasterous. My perspectives coming away from big tournaments are generally coloured by my performance and results. And over time, when I begin to see some of the positives (not only the negatives) my perspective changes and I am able to appreciate the whole event, the whole experience.
And it was a great experience! The Australians certainly took the Paralympics to their heart, just as they had done a month previously with the Olympics. We stayed in the same Village, used the same Dining Halls, played in the same facilities and took the same buses as Sonia O'Sullivan, Michael Johnson and Marion Jones had. For 10 days the world's best disabled athletes fought passionately for medals and the Australian people flocked in droves to witness it. The children of one school in Darwin spent three days and nights in a bus travelling to the Games, watched Australia play a wheelchair basketball match, and turned around to go home... back to school! The statistics of the games speak for themselves (1.2 Million event tickets sold; 120,000 people at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies; Kylie Minnogue the star of the Opening Ceremony, 40,000 volunteers supporting the Games -from bus drivers to chefs to security personnel). But statistics don't tell the full story... The warmth of the Australian public was phenomenol. My first match was a team match against Finland and the Stadium was almost full... We lost! The playing hall consisted of 12 tables which was reduced to 4 for the finals. In addition, there were 14 practice tables. The same day we played Korea and again lost 3-0. The two Koreans we played were the two players who ended up in the final of the singles event... a tough draw! The real objective of my playing Team Event was to relax me prior to the singles... we never really hoped for a medal. The size and importance of the event, and the fact that I'd trained for 4 years for it, made it really daunting. But the Team Event served its purpose. I felt very relaxed and confident going in to the singles a few days later. I knew I was playing well and had a real chance of winning my group of 4. My opponents were from Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic. They are all ranked higher than me but I'd beaten tham all previously except the Austrian, Scharf. I played him first and played really well. I lost 21-19 in the 3rd set and was really disappointed. In fact, 'disappointed' is an understatement... I was really upset, to the point of not being able to focus on my next matches, which I lost in straight sets. After my event, which was won by Kim Kong-Mook, was over I did some of the 'touristy' things which people do upon visiting Sydney... I visited The Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, and even took a ferry to Manly Beach. It's a really nice city, with water everywhere. Overall, Ireland finished 30th out of 140 in the medals table...unfortunately none of our medals were for table tennis. The trip home would have been a lot shorter if I had a little piece of metal in my pocket!"