OLYMPIC MOVEMENT BREAKS
Leon, born in Dublin in August 1997, played lots of sports like football, karate and boxing yet says that “nothing compares to breaking in my opinion. You have to use your whole body, it’s really intense.” He comes from a family of dancers. His grandfather was a body-popper and his mum a ballet teacher. Breakers need to have great flexibility, strength and acrobatic skills as well as good musicality to adapt their moves to the music but Leon says it is also about your mind and how you use it to overcome your opponent in competition. “You have to feed off the energy of the person that you are against. It’s like a conversation. If they do a move you have to do it better. You really have to be mentally ready for it and really prepared.” Leon has won competitions at home and abroad and also teaches breaking. Now his dream is to qualify for Paris 2024. “I didn’t expect anything like this to happen in my lifetime. I grew up doing breaking for the fun and the culture. Being in the Olympics is massive.”
Dean, born in Sligo in 2001, won seven successive Irish underage titles from 2013 and won two European Junior/Youth silver medals before he represented Ireland in the Youth Olympics in Argentina in 2018. In 2019, just four weeks after his 18th birthday, he won his first Irish senior title. Winning a European U22 title in 2021 came next and qualified him for the 2022 European Games which were an Olympic qualifier. Dean clinched his Olympic spot for Paris by beating an Italian in the Men’s 63.
5kg (lightweight) quarter-final and went on to win a bronze medal.
Dean says his dad Jason “has coached and guided me on this journey and shaped me into the boxer I am today,”. He has put his college studies on hold to train fulltime for Paris 2024 and, every Tuesday, gets on a train at 6:30am to go to Dublin to join the national squad. Dean performs particularly well under the pressure of big competitions and says that’s because “I just enjoy boxing. When I’m out there and I’m enjoying it I’m a great tournament boxer.”
Lucy, born in September 1993, grew up on a farm in Wicklow and wanted to be either a footballer or a vet when she was little. She was first a gaelic football star; topscorer and Player of the Match for Wicklow when they won the 2011 All-Ireland Junior football final. Three years later, while studying science in Trinity College, she got an email inviting her to try out for the national Sevens rugby team and hasn’t looked back since. Her switch to rugby coincided with Rugby Sevens becoming an Olympic sport in 2016.
As team captain she has led Ireland’s battle for Olympic qualification for nine whole years. They missed out narrowly in Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 yet never gave up their dream. They finally made history by becoming the first Irish women’s team to qualify by finishing fifth overall in the World Series tournament in Toulouse in May 2023. “We just always want to get better and better and put Sevens rugby on the map,” Lucy says.
Nadia, born in January 1998, grew up in Templeogue, Dublin and began athletics at eight years of age in her local club, starting in sprints before moving up to middle distances (800m and 1500m). She played camogie for 10 years but eventually concentrated on running because she always dreamed about making the Olympics Games. 2019 was her breakthrough as she broke lots of Irish records and won a bronze medal at the European U23 Championships. She qualified for the Tokyo Olympics while completing a degree in marketing at DCU and now does graphic design. Nadia says all girls and boys should find a sport they love because “there is nothing as good as the feeling of setting a goal, working for it and achieving it. It is also a great way to make friends and step out of your comfort zone.”
Thomas Barr was born in Waterford in 1992 . He was always a lover of the outdoors, tried most sports throughout his youth and stuck with athletics because he made such great friends in his club. It was not until he went to the University of Limerick that he really started to excel, helped by coaches Hayley and Drew Harrison.
Thomas has run for Ireland across the world and is brilliant at producing his best under pressure. He set a new Irish record of 47:97 seconds in the Rio Olympics where he finished fourth, just five hundredths of a second (the blink of an eye) away from a medal. Despite clipping the sixth hurdle, he was fourth in his semi-final at the Tokyo Olympics. Thomas also loves watersports, snowboarding and ‘drifting’ which is a form of car racing.
Sarah was born in Limerick in 1994 and played lots of different sports in her youth.
But after trying athletics at the age of 7 with Emerald AC she really loved the feeling of running fast and racing others, especially over the hurdles. She is a qualified physiotherapist but now runs full time and, with her coach Noelle Morrissey, travels all over the world to compete. After years of training and a lot of dedication she qualified for her first Olympics in 2022 and is now running the fastest times of her life. In 2023 she won bronze at the European Games and her 12:62 run in the semi-final of World Championships finally broke the Irish 100mH record she had been chasing for years. Sarah also finished 2023 by setting a new national 100m record on the flat (11:27) making her, officially, the fastest Irish woman in history!
Harry was born in 1993 and his family moved around a lot when he was little due to his parents’ work. He was born in Bahrain and lived in London and New York but settled in Ireland after coming to boarding school in Tipperary when he was 14. He didn’t make his school’s top team until he was in fifth year yet hasn’t look back since and is now Irish Sevens captain. He played 15s for Munster underage and was playing club rugby in America when recruited to play Sevens for Ireland in 2015. He loves Sevens because players are always in the thick of the non-stop action. Harry has a degree in food science and really loves photography and wildlife which he explores on his many travels. He has already visited 65 different countries!
Rhys, born in 1999 and from Newtownards, Co Down, was an extremely active child and taught himself to do a backflip on the trampoline in his garden before he even went to gymnastics classes at his local sports centre. By the age of 9 he was training over 24 hours a-week and his career really took off when he joined forces with coach Luke Carson. In 2016 he won Ireland’s first ever major gymnastics medal (silver at European Juniors). Now he is a two-time World Champion, an Olympic finalist and one of the most popular gymnasts in the world. Rhys needed surgery on his shoulder in 2018 yet less than a year later became the first Irish gymnast to reach the final of a World Championships and won bronze. He says: “What I love most is that gymnastics is now my job and I get to travel all over the world having fun with my teammates and all the other gymnasts. That’s so awesome!”
Ellen Walshe, who was born in Dublin in 2001, played a number of sports growing up but focused on swimming from the age of 10.
She says it wasn’t until she was 16 that she realised her own potential and began to dream of becoming an Olympian. She was only 18 when she became the first Irishwoman to break the one-minute barrier for 100m Butterfly and only 20 when she competed in the Tokyo Olympics in 100m butterfly and 200m Individual Medley (IM).
Ellen is good at all strokes but especially good at butterfly and she also swims relays for Ireland. She won three medals (two golds) at the European U23s in 2023 and guaranteed herself a spot at the 2024 Olympics in Paris by shattering the Irish 200m IM record at the 2023 World Championships where she missed the final by just one place. Ellen says “Once I achieve something, it’s ‘what can I do next?’”
Kellie was born in inner city Dublin in 1989. She got into boxing when she was around 15 years old and when she first tried to join the local boxing club they wouldn’t take girls, she kept persisting and joined the club and went from strength to strength. Kellie loves the discipline that boxing brings and loves that boxing gives everyone a goal and a plan. She loves everything about the sport. She works at a lot in the community inspiring kids to get involved in sport and tries to help them believe in themselves. She continues to stay very grounded despite her success.
Shane O Donoghue
Shane was born in Dublin in the suburbs of Knocklyon in 1992. He played every sport he could from hockey to Gaelic football, hurling to rugby. He started hockey at age 6 and has played for clubs at home and abroad, including professionally in Belgium. He was part of the Irish team that made history by qualifying for the Rio Olympics 2016 and only narrowly missed Tokyo due to losing a penalty shoot-out.
Shane plays midfield, has played over 200 times for Ireland and is especially good at scoring goals and penalty corners. He has a degree in sports psychology and coaching and absolutely loves being part of team sports, giving max effort always and most of all, enjoying everything sport has to offer. He says sport gives you friends and memories for life.
Britney was born in South Africa and moved to Ireland when she was five when her dad got a job here. She survived a terrible car accident when she was nine, spent a whole year in hospital afterwards and since then has been a wheelchair user. While playing basketball, when she was 16, someone suggested she might like weightlifting and she has excelled since. Britney competes in the 73kg class and, in only her second competition, set a new world junior record. She
was only 21 when she competed at the Tokyo Paralympics, where she lifted a new personal best of 107 kg and was also also an Ireland flag-bearer at the opening ceremony. Britney is a fulltime athlete and clinched her qualifying spot for the Paris Paralympics by finishing fifth at the 2023 World Championships. “I chose powerlifting because I have the strength for it, most of my muscles are in my upper body, but you can do any sport you like. What’s most important is to stay fit and healthy and have fun while you’re doing it,” Britney says.