Northern Italian territory of Friuli Venezia Giulia to host youth Games

Kicking off an action-packed year for the Olympic Federation of Ireland, will be two Alpine Skiers at the European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) in Italy this month. The multi-sport event, run in conjunction with the European Olympic Committees (EOC) is aimed at athletes aged 14-18 years of age and is held every two years. This year’s edition runs from the 21 – 28 January and is the first of four Games in which Team Ireland will be participating in 2023.

Team Ireland will be represented in Alpine Skiing by two athletes; Eábha McKenna (Wicklow born, living in Switzerland) and Ethan Bouchard (US born with West Cork heritage), both of whom will compete in the Slalom, Giant Slalom and Super-G events.

The base for the team will be Tarvisio in North-eastern Italy, close to the Austrian and Slovenian border, and host to all the Alpine Skiing competitions. Over the week of competition, athletes across thirteen sports will be based across the many idyllic mountains and resorts in the areas, with two main bases for the organisers; Udine and Trieste, which will host the opening and closing ceremonies.

Next week will see both McKenna and Bouchard gather at the official team day at the Olympic Federation of Ireland offices in Abbottstown, Dublin. At the event they will also hear from World Champion gymnast Rhys McClenaghan, who previously competed in the EYOF, and will share his learnings with the two Team Ireland athletes ahead of their competition.

The EYOF is an important developmental step for athletes, providing them with the opportunity to learn how to compete in a multi-sport environment with a high-performance focus. Speaking ahead of the event, Team Ireland Chef de Mission for Friuli Venezia Guilia 2023, Nancy Chillingworth, said,

“We are looking forward to working with Eábha and Ethan next week at the winter EYOF. They are two talented athletes, who are ready to embrace the next level in their sport. A multi-sport Games is always a different experience for athletes, and our focus in the OFI is to ensure that we grab every opportunity with athletes to develop them holistically and to prepare them for their senior careers. At these Games our focus will be on introducing the athletes to the Team Ireland culture and a high-performance setting, with the aim of them emerging from the event with an increased appetite for this level of competition. Having Rhys at the team day will be another step on their journey, where they can hear first hand from a World Champion who started his journey at the EYOF, and can offer tips and advice to the athletes.”

Over the coming year Team Ireland will field athletes in the Winter EYOF in Friuli Venezia Giulia in January, the European Games in Krakow, Poland in June, the Summer EYOF in Maribor, Slovenia in July and in the World Beach Games in Bali in August.

The European Games is set to be a key event on the sporting calendar, with the potential for a record number of Irish competitors likely to be selected. It will also play a key Olympic qualification event for several sports such as boxing, Rugby Sevens and Athletics Relays, ahead of Paris 2024.

Photographs of the Team Ireland athletes will be shared daily with the round up throughout the competition.

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