Within twelve hours of leading Team Ireland into the Opening Ceremony as flagbearer alongside Finlay Wilson, Dubliner Lily Cooke opened Irish action at the Winter Youth Olympic Games, competing in the Women’s Luge. The sixteen-year-old finished 27th in the event with a final time of 1:42.982, ahead of several strong winter sports nations. The Winter Youth Olympic Games are hosted by Gangwon, South Korea, and run from 19 January – 1 February 2024.
Competing in the Alpensia Sliding Centre, which was used in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018, Cooke hit over 100km an hour in today’s runs. Luge is an event that involves lying on a sled face up and feet first, sliding down a track that is approximately 800m long for youth athletes like Cooke. Athletes compete in two runs, with the overall finish time being the combination of both runs. The Irish athlete was in thirtieth place after the first run, and a fast second run placed her twenty-fifth, resulting in 27th overall.
Speaking about her competition today, racing in the fastest winter sport in the world, Cooke said,
“How can someone even go a hundred kilometres an hour with just a helmet on? That’s insane, but it’s exhilarating. There are no words to put into a sentence to say how crazy it feels.
“This morning I woke up feeling a bit of the pre-race nerves, but this is just such an exciting event to be at. It’s not like any other, and everyone is so supportive. I was nervous but excited to do my nation proud mostly.
“It’s honestly just the best feeling after you put down a good run and you feel that speed in the final few corners. When you know you’re doing well and your brain has time to think ‘oh my God, I’m alive’, the fight or flight is gone and the speed at the end is the main thing that I love. Once you’ve laid down a really good run, a clean run, and you feel that speed, it’s just amazing, there’s no other feeling I can describe, it’s insane.”
The Leaving Cert student first came across luge when she was watching Team Ireland Olympian Elsa Desmond compete at the Beijing Olympics in 2022, and that spurred her to contact the Irish Luge Federation,
“I emailed them because I was really inspired by Elsa’s story. She was a doctor and she’d worked so hard to get the sport set up in Ireland. I feel so special being part of a small nation, there’s only the two of us competing right now for Ireland, I definitely have a taste for more now. My goal is to make a senior Olympics, and next year after my Leaving Cert I’m going to do some more and carry on Elsa’s legacy. Maybe I’ll coach some juniors and recruit some more people, but that’s a long way off. I’m enjoying my time while I’m here.”
Tomorrow will see Ireland’s Alpine Skiers, Eábha McKenna and Finlay Wilson in action in the Super G, at the High 1 Ski Resort in Jeoungseon.
Results 20 January
Lily Cooke – Women’s Luge, 27th place with 1:42.982.
Schedule 21 January (Irish time)
01:00 (10:00 local time) Eábha McKenna – Women’s Super G
04:30 (13:30 local time) Finlay Wilson – Men’s Super G