Stage Set for Memorable Games on Thirtieth Anniversary
Team Ireland celebrates 30 years at the Winter Olympic Games
Official Qualification Allocations to be Confirmed in Coming Days
Over the coming days the final allocations for Team Ireland at the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing 2022 will be confirmed. The Olympics run from the 4-20 February across three zones in Beijing, the first city to host both the summer and winter Games. This year Ireland will celebrate 30 years of competing at the Winter Olympics; the first Irish athletes competing in Albertville, France in 1992.
Since 1992 thirty-one athletes have represented Ireland across seven Winter Olympics, with the top Irish result to date coming from Baron Clifton Wrottesley who finished just outside the medals in fourth place in the Skeleton in 2002 at Salt Lake City.
The largest team that has competed for Ireland in the Games has been six, and with one week to go until the final allocations have been assigned to Ireland, the team is guaranteed to have at least six athletes competing.
Ireland’s first Winter Olympic flagbearer was Dubliner Pat McDonagh, who competed in the 2-Man Bobsleigh alongside brakeman Terry McHugh. McHugh holds the accolade of being the Irish athlete who has competed in the most Olympic Games – Seoul 1988 (javelin), Barcelona 1992 (javelin), Albertville 1992 (bobsleigh), Atlanta 1996 (javelin), Nagano 1998 (bobsleigh), Sydney 2000 (javelin).
McDonagh, who also competed in two Summer Olympic Games as a rower, Moscow 1980 (coxed 4), Seoul 1988 (coxed pairs), was recruited to the bobsleigh when he responded to a note left on his boat at Henley Regatta in 1986. The note was left by UK entrepreneur Larry Tracey who funded and developed the sport of bobsleigh in Ireland which resulted in the Irish participation at the 1992 Winter Olympics, when Ireland entered two bobsleigh teams, with Gerry Macken and Malachy Sheridan also competing in the 2-Man event.
Speaking on the 30th anniversary of Albertville 1992 Pat McDonagh spoke about the lifelong friends that sport can bring,
“To be the first one to carry the flag was a great honour. Looking back on it at thirty years, probably the greatest memory that I have of the whole experience are the people that I met. People from other nations who helped us out, great friends. To me looking back on all the sporting achievements that I have had – it’s the connections that you make with other people. It’s the spirit of competing as well as that bond that just lasts forever.”
The official team announcement for Team Ireland in Beijing 2022 is due to be on the 24 January, and the team announcement will be released from the Pre-Games holding camp in Innsbruck, Austria. At least six people are guaranteed to be on the team across Alpine Skiing, Snowboarding, Freestyle Skiing, Cross Country Skiing and Luge, with allocation places set to be confirmed for Skeleton early next week. Short Track Skater Liam O’Brien missed out by one spot when the qualification period closed before Christmas.
The Beijing Games is spread across three distinct villages and zones – Beijing, Yanqing and Zhangjiakou. Speaking ahead of travelling to the Games, Team Ireland Chef de Mission for Beijing 2022, Nancy Chillingworth outlined the challenging journey of the athletes, and what to expect.
“At the moment Team Ireland will definitely be present in Yanqing and Zhangjiakou and there is still an outside possibility of an athlete in Beijing. This qualification has been extremely challenging for all athletes as they have struggled to qualify against a background of increased covid restrictions and competition cancellations. They have shown immense resilience in the face of these setbacks, and we are looking forward to supporting them to perform to their best in Beijing.
“Although the final team will not be known until qualification and selection concludes next week, we do know that there will be a mix of experienced Olympians and athletes making their Olympic debut which will be exciting, and we are looking forward to the team having an opportunity to get to know each other and build a sense of the Team Ireland culture in the pre-games camp.
“Beijing 2022 will be implementing very strict covid countermeasures, many of which are similar to those experienced in Tokyo 2020 but with some added layers around the strictness of the closed loop, daily pcr testing, monitoring of FFP2 mask wearing, health tracking in advance of travel etc. As Team Ireland we are prepared for this and have run a number of webinars with the prospective team to ensure everyone knows what is expected.”
The team will be training in Innsbruck from the 20 January before they travel to Beijing on the 26 January, and photography of Team Ireland will be available to the media alongside the team announcement and a media guidebook.
Later this month the Road to Beijing challenge will be officially launched. The OFI Dare to Believe schools challenge will bring the Winter Olympic Games to school children right around Ireland, and will be based on the Road to Tokyo which saw 55,000 children participate. As part of the reveal of the official poster, the Road to Beijing Colouring Competition is underway, with the closing date for entries on the 17th January.
Today Bubba Newby who competes in the Freestyle Halfpipe Skiing events will be doing a takeover on our Instagram account.
Profiles of athletes to date who have been targeting qualification:
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