Paracyclist Mark Rohan.
As the fanfare and excitement of the London Olympic Games begins to taper off, the village of Ballinahown and the rest of the Midlands region is starting to anticipate the eagerly-awaited appearance of local paracyclist Mark Rohan at the upcoming 2012 London Paralympics.
Rohan, one of 49 athletes chosen to represent Ireland at the Games (for which the opening ceremony takes place on August 22), is a strong medal hopeful heading into the event, and jets out tomorrow with the rest of his Irish team-mates for a pre-Games training and preparation camp in Portugal.
Competition for Rohan is due to begin on Wednesday, September 5 with the Handcycling Time-Trial event, followed two days later by the challening Road Race.
With proud parents Denis and Carmel, brother Rob, and sisters Nicola, Sarah and Laura, and many more family friends and well-wishers preparing to travel to London to support Mark, excitement is building in his native Ballinahown, where a 'Best of Luck Mark' flag has been erected at the Birr turn.
With World Championship-winning experience behind him, Mark is one of the favourites to succeed in London, but typically, the former Marist College student (who has bounced back remarkably since sustaining horrendous injuries in a road accident in 2001), is taking it all in his stride.
Speaking to the Westmeath Independent, Mark said: "My mindset is that I'm going to London to compete as well as I can, and to try to be successful. It will be a massive bonus if I take home a medal. All the Irish athletes hope to make the country proud and give everyone a lift. We have some top athletes, most with amazing stories, and hopefully we can do Ireland proud. Whatever happens, I'm going to savour the experience and I know my supporters will enjoy themselves regardless."
Mark has been training diligently over the past number of months, and his excellence has been recognised on many levels, not least with the award of a coveted Sky Sports Scholarship last year (which enabled him to concentrate full-time on handcycling).
Live coverage of the Paralympics will be aired (free to viewers) on both Channel 4 and Setanta Sports, while RTE will be showing extensive highlights packages. Live streams of the athlete's progress will also be available on the Irish Paralympic website.
Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that Mark's races will be shown live, leaving his very proud 90 year-old grandfather, Mike, in a bit of a predicament.
Mark, 31, said: "Yeah, it was disappointing to hear the races aren't been shown live, mainly because my grandfather won't be able to travel to London. He's a mighty man though, and we'll work something out, don't worry. He'll see it somehow."