This week two Team Ireland athletes begin their Olympic journey, at the European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) in Italy. Wicklow born Eábha McKenna, and Ethan Bouchard, with roots in Skibbereen and Bantry, are competing in Alpine Skiing in the northern Italian territory of Friuli Venezia Giulia, in a town called Tarvisio.
The EYOF is an important stepping stone in the pathway of Olympic hopefuls, as they experience their first taste of multi-sport events in a high performance setting, with the main objective being to learn and gain valuable insights to this type of environment. Run by the European Olympic Committees (EOC) every two years, it is an important step in the development of athletes who may be targeting senior events. For the winter athletes it is a key part of the pathway for athletes who are working with winter National Federations, and both McKenna and Bouchard work closely with the Snowsports Association of Ireland.
The competition runs from the 21-28 January, with the Irish athletes competing in the Slalom, Giant Slalom and Super-G events. The event will be streamed on https://eoctv.org/live/.
Team Ireland Chef de Mission for EYOF Friuli Venezia Giulia is Nancy Chillingworth, who was also Chef de Mission for the Irish team in Beijing 2022,
“The athletes are embracing the opportunity to compete here at the EYOF. The snow conditions are challenging, which means that we need flexibility in planning. However, this is still all part of the learning for these athletes as they start on their journey as elite athletes. Already there have been a few changes in the sports schedule that we have had to adapt to. In sport, building resilience and adapting to challenges is all part of that high performance journey for them. It was great for the athletes to hear from Tokyo Olympian and World Champion Rhys McClenaghan last week about the importance on finding the balance between soaking up the experience, and focusing on their own performance.”
McClenaghan previously competed in the EYOF in Tbilisi in 2015, and shared his journey with the athletes at the team day, which the parents also attended. The gymnastics World Champion shared tips and advice with the young athletes, highlighting to them the relevance of the EYOF in an athlete’s overall journey,
“I feel like the main learning points that I was trying to get across to the athletes was just enjoy the experience as a whole. Learn the ropes of a multi-sport event like this, and become familiar with it. Because when they go to the Winter Olympic Games, they’ll be a lot more familiar with them, and they will be a lot less surprises. I feel like that is the main thing that I took from the EYOF experience, was the familiarity when I went to the Olympic Games.”
TEAM IRELAND EYOF SCHEDULE:
|Saturday 21 January:||17:00 Ireland||18:00 Italy||Opening Ceremony (Trieste)|
|Monday 23 January:||CANCELLED WITH POOR CONDITIONS|
|Tuesday 24January:||09:30 – Run 1 (IRL) 12:15 – Run 2 (IRL)||10:30 – Run 1 (ITL) 13:15 – Run 2 (ITL)||Slalom (Boys)|
|Wednesday 25 January:||09:30 – Run 1 (IRL) 12:15 – Run 2 (IRL)||10:30 – Run 1 (ITL) 13:15 – Run 2 (ITL)||Slalom (Girls)|
|Thursday 26 January||08:30 – Run 1 (IRL) 11:30 – Run 2 (IRL)||09:30 – Run 1 (ITL) 12:30 – Run 2 (ITL)||Giant Slalom (Girls)|
|Friday 27 January:||08:30 – Run 1 (IRL) 11:30 – Run 2 (IRL)||09:30 – Run 1 (ITL) 12:30 – Run 2 (ITL)||Giant Slalom (Boys)|
|Saturday 28 January:||08:30 – (IRL) 11:00 – (IRL) 16:00 – 17:30 (IRL)||09:30 – (ITA) 12:00 – (ITA) 17:00 – 18:30 (ITL)||Super – G (Girls) Super – G (Boys) Closing Ceremony (Udine)|
This is the first of four events for Team Ireland this year, with Team Ireland also set to field athletes in 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.
Wicklow born Eábha McKenna moved with her family from Clara Vale, Rathdrum to Switzerland in 2011. She currently lives in a small town of Beckenried, near Lucerne, competing for local ski club, Ski Club Beckenried Klewenalp (SCBK). The sixteen-year-old began competing as an under-10 athlete, and has been working with Snowsports Association of Ireland throughout her youth career.
United States based Ethan Bouchard attends Gould Academy in Bethel, Maine, which is close to his home mountain, Sunday River. The seventeen-year-old began skiing as a three year old and has been competing for the past nine years. Bouchard joins a rich history of Team Ireland athletes with links to West Cork, with a large family of cousins living in Skibbereen. Both his great grandparents were from Bantry and Skibbereen, before moving to the US.