Last week the Olympic Federation of Ireland’s Athletes’ Commission launched their strategy at an interactive and engaging session with athletes from almost twenty different sports.

With a theme of ‘Enjoying the Journey’ the event was facilitated by David Gillick (Beijing 2008 Olympian, former Athletes’ Commission member and reporter). Throughout the day the audience of Olympians and aspiring Olympians heard from a range of inspirational athletes including Tokyo 2020 Olympic Bronze Medallist Aidan Walsh.

Walsh spoke about his rise through the ranks to Olympic success. His unique story outlined the highs and lows of high performance sport, painting a clear picture of some of the challenges that athletes face when they need to step outside their comfort zone into new environments.

Aidan Walsh speaking at the Athletes’ Commission event

The gloves were on and taped up. There was no turning back. I made the walk. This walk was like no other. Of all the walks I’ve made to the ring across thousands of venues all over the world. This was the only one that would change my life and my career. 

Aidan Walsh
Brendan Boyce and Sanita Puspure at the Athletes’ Commission event

The first panel discussion saw three time Olympians Sanita Puspure (rower) and Brendan Boyce (race walker) speak about their journey, and the changing landscape over three Olympic cycles, and what they take with them as they currently compete in their fourth cycle.

Boyce spoke about how when you are young you can make all the sacrifices you need to progress, but how as an older athlete, as a parent, you need to consider other things also.

Multiple World Champion Puspure spoke about the confidence growing within the rowing squad following on from the silver medal won by the O’Donovan brothers in Rio 2016.

Everyone is on a different journey, but you definitely take a lot of motivation and encouragement from other people’s success, and that drives the train, and you want to hop on that train.

Sanita Puspure
Olympic Medallists Paddy Barnes and Annalise Murphy at the Athletes’ Commission event

In the second panel discussion Annalise Murphy (sailing, Olympic Silver medallist in Rio 2016) and Paddy Barnes (boxing, Olympic Bronze medallist in Beijing 2008 and London 2012) discussed a range of topics including dealing with success. Resilience and dealing with disappointment is something discussed a lot, but very rarely do you deal with success.

Murphy talked about how sometimes when you come home as a medallist, it’s a little bit different, and people treat you differently. She spoke about how as she got older she became more comfortable with her bad decisions, and to move beyond a disappointing performance. With maturity you realise that you get a buzz from racing the best in the world, and beating them, and push aside thoughts about outside expectations.

Talking through his two medals and three Olympic Games, Barnes spoke about balancing expectations throughout the process, and how when he first qualified for the Games, he was disappointed because he hadn’t won the World Championships in the qualifier. Beijing was about building experience, and London was a special experience too. He spoke about how while Rio didn’t go well for him, carrying the flag there was like winning a gold medal. As an athlete, he described how he had to be selfish and ruthless.

During the day the athletes received an update about Paris 2024 from Team Ireland Chef de Mission for Paris 2024, Gavin Noble, who was previously on the Athletes’ Commission. They also received more information about the Mentor Programme that will be launched in the new year, from Annalise Murphy.

The day was broken up with a fun interactive breakout activity of Tug of War! No better way to bring high performance athletes together!

Funding annoucement and offical launch release HERE


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