Speaking at the end of what has been a successful Games for Team Ireland at the Beijing Winter Olympics, Chef de Mission Nancy Chillingworth describes an event that saw top performances from Irish athletes, all the more special considering the challenges faced by the athletes in the lead up to the event.
This has been a fantastic experience for Team Ireland. We have had a small team, six athletes, spread across two villages. But the performance levels that the athletes have produced has been phenomenal. They’ve come into this off the back of challenging qualification, with covid restrictions and qualification events have changed, and the performances they have achieved as a group has been really inspiring. Pretty much everyone has either equalled or in many cases bettered their pre-games expectations. And then to have a 12th in the Alpine Combined and a fourteenth in the cross country is really amazing for a country of our size.
What has been notable throughout the Winter Olympics in Beijing has been the team spirit and supportive culture that has been shared by athletes and staff. Chillingworth highlights this as been a culture that has also bolstered performances,
I think it’s been really special to be part of it. The team got together beforehand in a pre-games camp, and that really helped the athletes to build and foster this culture and spirit of team Ireland. We have managed to get the group together on zoom across the villages, and even the way that the athletes themselves has supported each other at competition when they’ve come back. Whether they have actually go physically to the competition or they’ve watched it on the screen in the village, and have communicated through our whatsapp groups, or in person, has been something really special. To witness it, and to be a part of it. We are a small team and spread across the world for most of the cycle, so to see them come together and support each other has really been fantastic.
With the athletes spread across the world throughout the Olympic cycle, competing in many cases as sole Irish representatives in their respective sports, the Olympic Games offers them a unique opportunity to come together under one Team Ireland umbrella. Speaking about this bond and sense of togetherness within the team Chillingworth said,
The athletes have really lifted each other along with their performances. I know that Thomas said at the end of his 15km that being able to share the experience of the success with his teammates at the finish line just really made the moment that bit extra. It’s hard to put into words but you can get the sense of it around the village. How the team responds to each other. I think the fact that they operate largely independently throughout the cycle means that when you have the opportunity to come together in this multi-sport arena, it just adds that extra piece of what this really means to represent team Ireland and you can see how important it is to each and every athlete. You can see that as soon as they put on the green and they feel part of the team coming into the opening ceremony, that it’s really a part of their identity and how they identify properly with the country and culture.
Team Ireland competed in the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing from the 4-20 February, achieving some of the best Irish results at a Winter Games in the thirty years of participation:
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