Jenny Carbonari Damian Gardiner represented Ireland at Atlanta '96.
Olympic Spirit

Irish showjumping mourns the loss of two fierce competitors

Damien Gardiner and Joan Salmon represented Ireland at the Atlanta Olympics and Paralympics in 1996.

IRISH SHOWJUMPING IS MOURNING the loss of two competitors that represented the country at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Atlanta.

Damian Gardiner, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer of the oesophagus back in April, passed away in California earlier this week. The loss of the Mayo native was compounded when Irish Paralympic dressage rider Joan Salmon passed away on Saturday.

Gardiner was called up to the Irish showjumping team for Atlanta ’96 on the back of a successful career Statesside. The Irish team finished eighth overall. Speaking to in June of this year, two months after he discovered his cancer was terminal, Gardiner was determined to stay positive. He said:

I can’t hold back. I could lie in bed with this cancer and just pass out but I’m up all day, looking after the horses and training. I’m not going to lay back in my bed and give up.”

Jenny Carbonari, Gardiner’s partner, posted a message on a GoFundMe page she had set up with the Irishman to help with the costs of his treatment and care. “I am so touched by all of you and just want everyone to know how grateful we both were for helping to make what was a terrible thing into something bearable.”

Salmon won a broze medal for Ireland at the 1996 Paralympics. She had been blind since the age of 23 following a history of diabetes. She underwent a host of operations over the years, including two kidney transplants and a pancreas transplant.

A spokesperson from Horse Sports Ireland told “HSI was saddened to learn of the untimely death of Damien and Joan. Both represented Ireland with distinction at Olympic and Paralympic level and brought great honour to Ireland on the world stage.”

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