NINE Irish snowsport athletes are hoping to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics, which will take place in PyeongChang, South Korea from February 9-25.
The nine Winter Olympic hopefuls were in Dublin recently for an Athlete Workshop organised by the Olympic Council of Ireland in conjunction with the Sport Ireland Institute. The athletes were taken through all aspects of what it is like to compete at a Winter Olympic Games, which included preparing for the Olympic experience, Korean culture, anti-doping procedures as well as the medical support available at the Games.
The OCI has supported five of Ireland’s eligible Winter Olympic hopefuls through the Olympic Scholarship run in conjunction with the International Olympic Committee. The five athletes who received scholarships in the run up to the PyeongChang games are Tess Arbez, Patrick McMillan, Kieran Norris (all Alpine Ski), Kieran O’Connor (Snowboarder) and Brendan Doyle (Skeleton). Each of the scholarship students received grants of €17,000 plus an additional €4,700 to assist with transport costs to Olympic qualification competitions.
President of the Olympic Council of Ireland, Sarah Keane said: “I am delighted that for the first time we have 6 athletes who have achieved the necessary qualification standard to be eligible for selection to represent Ireland at the Winter Olympic Games. The commitment and dedication shown by these athletes to represent Ireland is phenomenal particularly, given the challenge some of their sports face in terms of profile and support in this country where the tradition of high performance in Winter Sports is still very much developing. We wish all the athletes the best of luck over the next few months in what is a key time for both competition and preparation with every performance likely to impact on their prospect of fulfilling their dream of representing Ireland at an Olympic Games.”
Their disciplines vary hugely from downhill, cross-country, slope-style and half-pipe skiers to snowboarder Seamus O’Connor, the only one who competed in Sochi. We will be bringing you profiles of them and updates on their progress in the coming months but one for the future definitely is the youngest: alpine skier Emma Ryan (17), from near Boston. Still a schoolgirl she has finished in the top 10 in the US Junior Nationals in slalom and giant slalom and has extremely deep Irish roots. Her mum is from Keadue, Co Roscommon, her dad is from Ludford, near Dundrum in Dublin and she regularly returns to visit her three grandparents.
“When I was younger we were over here most Christmases but now it’s every other summer because I’m so busy with school and skiing,” Emma explained.
“My relatives here will be very excited when I compete for Ireland. The area I’m from in Massachusetts there’s loads of Irish names so people don’t notice, but when I go out West or to competitions people always see my name and ask if I’m Irish.”
Ireland’s Winter Olympic hopefuls are now returning to their training and competition schedules with the sole focus of achieving the necessary qualification standards and crucial world ranking points prior to the January 24th cut off. The OCI will confirm selection of the successful athletes to represent Ireland at the Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang shortly thereafter.