With the Winter Olympic Games just 65 days away, Irish athletes are in a period of intense competition around the world competing for the Olympic spots on offer. Athletes from ten sports are competing with chances of achieving qualification places in their events for Ireland. The Winter Olympic Games takes place in Beijing from the 4-20 February 2022 and has a chance of qualifying its largest team to date. Ireland first sent a team to the Winter Olympics in 1992, Albertville, and since then has competed in seven Games, with a total of 32 Winter Olympians in the twenty years of competition.
The Winter Olympic Games offers a special opportunity to engage with the wider Irish family, with many of the Olympic hopefuls coming from the greater diaspora, with many of the athletes currently training and living in countries such as Norway, France, the USA and Australia, where winter sports are more prevalent due to access to snow.
For Beijing 2022 there are three main venues, with most of the Irish focus based in the mountainous areas. Beijing will host the skating events, and Zhangjiakou and Yanqing host the skiing, snowboarding, and sliding events. As with Tokyo 2020 all participants at the Olympic Games will be subject to stringent measures to ensure that the competition conditions are as safe as possible, with Playbooks outlining the framework for how these will be applied.
The Beijing 2022 Games offer an opportunity for our community to connect with athletes and sports that are not ordinarily in the Irish mainstream, and for two weeks to immerse themselves in adrenalin fueled exciting sports, while meeting the Irish athletes for whom these sports are a way of life. Plans are already underway for the OFI Dare to Believe schools programme to run a Road to Beijing activation in the new year. This will bring the Winter Olympic Games to school children right around Ireland.
The following list groups some of the athletes, at this stage of qualification, who are most in contention to represent the final team in February next year.
Team Ireland is on track to qualify one female spot and one or two male spots in the Alpine Skiing events. For the women’s place, 2018 Olympian Tess Arbez, whose Irish roots are in Carlow, is the front runner for the spot, with young USA based athletes Emma Ryan (Dublin and Roscommon) and Elle Murphy (Dublin) also contesting this spot.
In the men’s event Skibbereen may have an athlete to cheer for with Jack Gower having recently declared for Ireland, his late grandmother was born in Dublin and raised in the West Cork town renowned for their rowing prowess. Also seeking qualification is Dubliner Cormac Comerford, Australia based Alec Scott and Winter Youth Olympian Matt Ryan, whose sister Emma Ryan is targeting the women’s event. Their father is from Dublin and mother from Roscommon.
Pyeongchang Winter Olympian Thomas Maloney Westgaard has already accumulated enough qualification points for the Beijing Winter Games, and will compete in the 15km event in Beijing 2022. Westgaard’s mother hails from Galway, and met his Norwegian father whilst on holiday, before moving to a small fishing island in Norway. This event is one of the oldest winter sports, and is an endurance sport, often compared to running on ice.
Brendan Newby, better known as Bubba, competed for Team Ireland at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics in this event, and is on the cusp of achieving qualification once more. The Cork born athlete is based in the USA where he competes in the exciting halfpipe event.
The entire Irish Luge Federation is founded based on the drive and ambition of Elsa Desmond, whose paternal grandparents are from Cavan and Cork. The UK based athlete has recently qualified as a doctor, and should she qualify for Beijing 2022, she begins work just days after her event! Luge is an event where the athlete lies on their back on a sled while sliding down a track. This is the fastest sport at the Winter Olympics with the speeds reaching up to 145kmph.
For the first time in the history of Ireland competing at the Winter Olympics, we have an ice skater in contention for one of the spots in Men’s 1500m in Short Track Racing. Liam O’Brien (Cavan/Leitrim) is an Australian based skater, who alongside the McAnuff brothers (Ryan and Sean) has been competing for qualification points during the Olympic Qualification series which ended last weekend. With 36 athletes set to compete in Beijing, O’Brien is currently ranked between 34-37 on the qualification status, and has qualification within his grasp, pending the publication of the final qualification list on the 13 December 2021.
Skeleton, the event where athletes compete on a sled sliding head first down a track, is the event in which Team Ireland has had the most success at the Winter Olympics! In 2002 at Salt Lake City Clifton Wrottesley finished fourth in this event, just outside the medals! For Beijing 2022 Dubliner Brendan Doyle is currently competing in events in the USA seeking qualification in the Skeleton. Over the coming weeks his results in races in the USA and in Germany will determine his Olympic qualification. Based in Ireland for much of the year, Doyle needs results in eight competitions across his race calendar for November and December, where he is targeting fourteen competitions. After five events, he has reached his target in three events.
The most experienced Olympian on the Team Ireland list is Seamus O’Connor who has competed in the past two Olympic Games in the Halfpipe. The US based Snowboarder’s paternal grandparents are from Drogheda and Dublin, competing since he was five, O’Connor turned professional when he was 13. He has now achieved the qualification target for Beijing 2022 and is set to compete in his third Olympic Games, becoming the first Irish person to do so.
Maggie Rose Carrigan is an Alpine Snowboarder and is seeking qualification in the Parallel Giant Slalom. The American born athlete has an incredible story of resilience, she was diagnosed with scoliosis as a child and following surgery at 11 years of age she is now competing with the best in the world. In the women’s event in Beijing 2022 there are 31 spots on offer.
|Alpine Skiing||Female Slalom/Giant Slalom/Super G||Tess Arbez (F)||Carlow/France|
|Female Slalom/Giant Slalom/Super G||Emma Ryan (F)||Dublin/Roscommon/USA|
|Female Slalom/Giant Slalom/Super G||Elle Murphy (F)||Dublin/USA|
|Male Slalom/Giant Slalom/Super G||Jack Gower (M)||Skibbereen/Dublin/UK|
|Male Slalom/Giant Slalom/Super G||Alec Scott (M)||/Australia|
|Male Slalom/Giant Slalom/Super G||Cormac Comerford (M)||Dublin|
|Male Slalom/Giant Slalom/Super G||Matt Ryan (M)||Dublin/Roscommon/USA|
|Cross-country skiing||Male 15km||Thomas Westgaard (M)||Galway/Norway|
|Freestyle Skiing||Male Halfpipe||Brendan Newby (M)||Cork/USA|
|Luge||Female Luge||Elsa Desmond (F)||Cavan/Cork/UK|
|Short Track Skating||Male 1500m||Liam O’Brien||Cavan/Leitrim/Australia|
|Skeleton||Male Skeleton||Brendan Doyle||Dublin|
|Snowboard||Male Halfpipe||Seamus O’Connor||Drogheda/Dublin/USA|
|Female Parallel Giant Slalom||Maggie Carrigan||/USA|
|Alpine Skiing||Female||Giant Slalom||07-Feb|
|Luge||Elsa Desmond||Run 1 & 2||07-Feb|
|Snowboard||Maggie Rose Carrigan||Parallel Giant Slalom||08-Feb|
|Alpine Skiing||Male||Super G||08-Feb|
|Luge||Elsa Desmond||Run 3 & 4||08-Feb|
|Cross‑country skiing||Thomas Westgard||Sprint||08-Feb|
|Alpine Skiing||Female||Slalom Run 1&2||09-Feb|
|Snowboard||Seamus O’Connor||Halfpipe Qualifying||09-Feb|
|Short track speed skating||Liam O’Brien||1500m||09-Feb|
|Skeleton||Brendan Doyle||Run 1 & 2||10-Feb|
|Alpine Skiing||Male||Alpine Combined Downhill||10-Feb|
|Snowboard||Seamus O’Connor||Halfpipe Final (1,2, 3)||11-Feb|
|Alpine Skiing||Female||Super G||11-Feb|
|Cross‑country skiing||Thomas Westgard||15km Classic||11-Feb|
|Skeleton||Brendan Doyle||Run 3 & 4||11-Feb|
|Alpine Skiing||Male||Giant Slalom Run1 & 2||13-Feb|
|Alpine Skiing||Male||Slalom Run 1&2||16-Feb|
|Alpine Skiing||Female||Alpine Combined Downhill||17-Feb|
|Freestyle skiing||Brendan Newby||Halfpipe Qualifying 1&2||17-Feb|
|Freestyle skiing||Brendan Newby||Halfpipe Final (1. 2 & 3)||19-Feb|
|Cross‑country skiing||Thomas Westgard||50km||19-Feb|