A PAIR of young international gymnasts said 'Arrivederci Roma' but not before packing a haul of medals for the journey home.
Michael Hughes, 18, in his first competition since being named Halton's Sports Person of the Year, grabbed three medals for Great Britain at the Special Olympics European Youth Games in Italy.
The man from Castlefields took silver on both rings and high bar while claiming bronze on parallel bars in Division Five of his level-one competition.
Nineteen-year-old Rachael Fair-hurst from Warrington - Michael's team-mate at the borough's Valiant
Gym Club - won overall runners-up spot in Division Four, clinching three silvers and two bronze in all.
No one was more pleased with their performances than Valiant's head artistic coach Andy Shard, who was part of the national coaching team for the event.
Thirty athletes in a 44-strong GB party for the gymnastics events gained 75 medals between them.
'You got there with no expectations - you just go there to perform,' said Shard, of Windmill Hill, Run-corn.
'But they did extremely well and it
was a fantastic experience for them.
'The atmosphere was unbelievable. Michael and Rachel loved it.'
Highlights of the 57-nation games included meeting the Italian-based Brazilian superstar footballer Kaka, who had paid for his national team to make the trip to Europe, and a civic reception in the host town of Viterbo, where the British team spent two days.
A spectacular opening ceremony took place in an amphitheatre next to the Roma-Lazio football stadium with an equally memorable close to festivities in the Olympic village.