Afternoon report from Team Ireland on Day One of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
The action continued in Tokyo this afternoon for Team Ireland with Dan Martin, Nicolas Roche and Eddie Dunbar all competing in the men’s cycling road race, while Ellen Walshe was the first Irish swimmer to hit the water this evening, winning her Women’s 100m Breaststroke heat in a time of 59.35.
Dan Martin finished 16th in a punishing 234-kilometer Men’s Road Race at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics today, with his Ireland teammates, Nicolas Roche and Eddie Dunbar finishing 75th and 76th respectively, and both playing their part in animating the race and delivering a top 20 result for Team Ireland. With 4,865 metres of climbing over a distance of 234 kilometres, the course was considered one of the toughest in Olympic history. The searing temperatures and over six hours in the saddle combined to whittle down the peloton with 82 of the 130 riders finishing the race.
24-year-old Cork man, Eddie Dunbar said he wanted to put Banteer back on the Olympic map and he aimed to do just that with an attack inside the final 50 kilometres. Dunbar was joined by Remco Evenepoel and Vincenzo Nibali however other nations recognised the danger and acted quickly to close the gap. The decisive move was made on the Mikuni Pass when one of the pre-race favourites, Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia) blew the peloton apart on the steep climb. The move saw Eddie Dunbar distanced while Dan Martin remained in contention until a kilometre before the summit. Dan Martin crested Mikuni Pass in a chase group and battled on for a very respectable top 20 finish. Richard Carapaz (Ecuador) won gold with Wout van Aert claiming silver ahead of Tadej Pogačar in a photo finish.
Speaking afterwards, Dan Martin said: “We came here with the idea of getting a medal and honestly, it’s been my best experience in an Irish team since I’ve been racing for Ireland. We had the best preparation possible; the staff have been amazing, and we really worked together. It was a great team performance and yeah, unfortunately I just didn’t have the legs when it mattered on the climb. It was super-hot there and I just missed a couple of seconds to be in that front selection that was fighting for the medals. We did a perfect race today in my opinion, I wouldn’t change anything that we did today and that’s a really nice feeling coming out of an Olympic road race knowing that we all did our best. Nico did a great job of keeping me positioned and safe the whole way along and we had staff the whole way along giving us bottles. It really was a great team effort. I want to say thank you to everyone and just unfortunately we couldn't come away with a medal this time but yeah it's really promising for the future, how we're developing as a team. It was really good to race with Eddie as well. I think he’s the future of Irish cycling, so it’s been good to share mine and Nico’s experience with him this week. The future’s bright and we can all look forward towards Paris now and try and improve our performance still.”
Eddie Dunbar agreed, commenting: “Yeah, it was a very, very tough day. A long day in the saddle. I thought it was a super performance today by the team, we were out of trouble all day and never dropped outside of the top 30 all day I would say. Nico did a brilliant job keeping me and Dan out of trouble. I followed a move with about 60km to go with Remco and Nibali. When you see a rider like that move it's important to follow, given his characteristics and what he's capable of doing. I felt good at the time and you never know what could have happened in a situation like that. It didn't pay off but that’s one day racing - you normally only have one bullet and when you use it that’s it, game over. I thought it was a great day for us and Dan finished in the top 20 today, so a good ride by all of us in the green jersey.”
Nicolas Roche was also pleased with the performance stating: “Today the tactics were that I would look after the interests of Dan and Eddie to put them in the best position for the finish. Eddie tried to go in an early move with Remco, and Dan played the safe card by just waiting and saving himself. Good ride by Dan to make it into the top 20. When we got to the last climb, I just rode my pace and made it to the finish. It’s been an honour for me to ride at the Olympics. I’ve had my chance to go for results of my own already three times and I thought it was fair to really commit this time for the other two who were, in my opinion, stronger for the day.”
Irish equestrian athletes across all disciplines will wear a yellow ribbon during competition in commemoration of the loss of a highly talented young Irish athlete who tragically suffered a fatal incident in June. Tiggy Hancock (15) was known across all equestrian disciplines and was a respected member of the Irish Pony High-Performance Eventing Programme. She was a shining star that would have been a promising Olympian of the future. At the young age of 15, Tiggy had already made a mark on the sport and was one to watch whenever she competed, against both senior and youth athletes.
Tiggy was well-liked among both junior and senior members of the Irish equestrian family as well as the international equestrian community and her passing has been mourned by all. The colour yellow for the ribbon was selected by the Hancock family as this was Tiggy’s favourite colour and a symbol of the person she was; a bright, bubbly, shining ray of sunshine. Tiggy’s warm nature was felt by everybody in her presence and the yellow ribbon is a reminder of her beautiful nature.
Speaking about the announcement, Joe Reynolds, Acting CEO of Horse Sport Ireland stated: “We would like to thank the International Olympic Council (IOC) and the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) for allowing the Irish equestrian athletes to wear this mark of respect and show their support to the Hancock family during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.”
Ellen Walshe was Team Ireland’s first swimmer in action at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre and she put in an impressive performance to win her Women’s 100m Butterfly heat in a time of 59.35 – just 0.03 seconds outside of her own Irish Senior Record set in June 2021. Walshe finished in 24th position overall, with the top 16 progressing to the semi-finals.
“It was a strong first swim for me, it’s just slightly off my PB.” she said afterwards. “It would have been nice to get another Irish Senior Record but it wasn’t there, I felt strong, but you win some you lose some – I’m happy enough with the swim.”
Walshe is back in action on Monday (Day 3 – July 26th) in the Women’s 200m Individual Medley.
Elsewhere today swimmer Darragh Greene will be in action in the 100m Breaststroke shortly, while the hockey team will kick start their Olympic campaign when they face South Africa in their opening game.
AFTERNOON RESULTS DAY ONE: JULY 24TH, 2021
Men’s Road Race:16th Dan Martin (6:00:04), 75th Nicolas Roche (6:21:46), 76th Eddie Dunbar (6:21:46).
Women’s 100m Butterfly Heat: Ellen Walshe, 1st in heat, 24th overall with a time of 59.35.
DAY ONE SCHEDULE (ALL TIMES ARE IRISH TIME): JULY 24TH, 2021
*Note the schedule may be subject to change*
12:32 Swimming – Darragh Greene – Men’s 100m Breaststroke, Heat 4
13:15 Hockey – Ireland v South Africa – Pool Match