ELSA Desmond was in the expensive Swiss ski resort of St Moritz last year when she got the news that she was finally a doctor.

That gives the impression of a glamorous lifestyle until she explains the harsh reality of mixing such a demanding career with the sliding sport of luge, especially when you’re from a non-alpine country.

For the past five years she has studied medicine at Kings College London while training and competing abroad.

“I was always revising, sometimes writing essays in the car between tracks. I’d often have my study cards and revision notes with me in the ‘start houses’ before races,” she reveals.


If that wasn’t hard enough then came the global pandemic.
In her bid to become Ireland’s first female Olympian in luge Desmond (24) had arranged to take the past two years out of college to concentrate on qualifying for the 2020 Beijing Olympics (February 4-10) but, with Covid’s disruption of international sport, decided to keep mixing both.

Then Britain went into a complete lockdown and she couldn’t fly home to sit her final exams.

“I had to do them online. My two biggest ones were done in Latvia and Germany during race weeks. I just stuck a big ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on my door,” she says nonchalantly, before conceding “it was a bit stressful.”

No wonder her Instagram account is called ‘Elsa_no_princess’.
It’s a nod to her namesake in ‘Frozen’ but also to her doughty character and ability to “take a hit and get back up again.”

She is actually terrified of heights and flying yet races feet first, at speeds up to 130kph, lying on her back on a small sled, down the equivalent of an icy rollercoaster.

She has been on the international circuit since 2018, competing in the second tier Nations Cup races that directly precede World Cups.

“It's the exact same tracks and circuit. The top 12 in the world automatically compete in World Cups and the rest of us race, a day earlier, to join them. The top 16 in women’s Nations Cup qualify and I’ve done that just once.”

She’s hoping her first full season on the circuit will help, thanks to the flexibility of her new job at Southend University Hospital.

Medical internships in Britain are usually two years of six rotations but the hospital is allowing her to do them over three years, giving her four months off each winter to pursue her sporting goal.

“They have been brilliant. If I qualify for the Olympics my races will be on the 7th and 8th of February and my first shift back the hospital is on the 11th.”

She first saw luge on television in the 2006 Winter Olympics: “I thought it was so cool and when I found there was no woman from Ireland or GB doing I thought ‘I could do that!”

It took her 10 years to even get to try it, as a 16-year-old, in Innsbruck.

“You don’t start at the top of the run. I was at the little ‘kinder’ kid’s start’, about six or seven corners from the end. Just held on and toddled down to the finish, probably about 50kph.”

Now she reaches almost three times, racing for between 40 to 90 seconds and whizzing through corners with six G-forces.

Ireland’s sole luger is part of a group of athletes from smaller nations who train and travel together. The international luge association (FIL) funds their two coaches, they live out of their suitcases and have already raced in Olympic qualifiers in China (Yanqing) and Russia (Sochi) this season.

Desmond’s dad Brendan grew up in Fulham but her paternal grandmother is from Ballyjamesduff (Cavan) and her grandfather is from Cork.

She represented GB for a year as a junior but then sat out international competition for 12 months to qualify for Ireland and her family has been centrally involved in setting up the Irish Luge Association.

“Being raised by a dad who is Irish in so many ways, I always wanted to represent Ireland and help get more small nations into luge. Now we are growing the sport.”

She has avoided serious injury so far but does she ever get scared?

“Of course! I’m human and you’re going downhill at 170kph in lycra. My way of rationalising it is there’s risks in getting in a car every day so you might as well do what you enjoy.


“I do get scared, especially after I’ve crashed, but I work with a sports psychologist and use a lot of visualisation and meditation techniques.

“Qualifying to represent Ireland on the Olympic stage, whether its Beijing or later, that is the absolute dream,” Desmond says.

“After everything I’ve been through to get here that would mean the world to me and I really hope I can make it. I’m certainly going to try my very best.”

By Cliona Foley

With the Winter Olympic Games just 65 days away, Irish athletes are in a period of intense competition around the world competing for the Olympic spots on offer. Athletes from ten sports are competing with chances of achieving qualification places in their events for Ireland. The Winter Olympic Games takes place in Beijing from the 4-20 February 2022 and has a chance of qualifying its largest team to date. Ireland first sent a team to the Winter Olympics in 1992, Albertville, and since then has competed in seven Games, with a total of 32 Winter Olympians in the twenty years of competition.

The Winter Olympic Games offers a special opportunity to engage with the wider Irish family, with many of the Olympic hopefuls coming from the greater diaspora, with many of the athletes currently training and living in countries such as Norway, France, the USA and Australia, where winter sports are more prevalent due to access to snow.

For Beijing 2022 there are three main venues, with most of the Irish focus based in the mountainous areas. Beijing will host the skating events, and Zhangjiakou and Yanqing host the skiing, snowboarding, and sliding events. As with Tokyo 2020 all participants at the Olympic Games will be subject to stringent measures to ensure that the competition conditions are as safe as possible, with Playbooks outlining the framework for how these will be applied.

The Beijing 2022 Games offer an opportunity for our community to connect with athletes and sports that are not ordinarily in the Irish mainstream, and for two weeks to immerse themselves in adrenalin fueled exciting sports, while meeting the Irish athletes for whom these sports are a way of life. Plans are already underway for the OFI Dare to Believe schools programme to run a Road to Beijing activation in the new year. This will bring the Winter Olympic Games to school children right around Ireland.

The following list groups some of the athletes, at this stage of qualification, who are most in contention to represent the final team in February next year.

ALPINE SKIING

Team Ireland is on track to qualify one female spot and one or two male spots in the Alpine Skiing events. For the women’s place, 2018 Olympian Tess Arbez, whose Irish roots are in Carlow, is the front runner for the spot, with young USA based athletes Emma Ryan (Dublin and Roscommon) and Elle Murphy (Dublin) also contesting this spot.

In the men’s event Skibbereen may have an athlete to cheer for with Jack Gower having recently declared for Ireland, his late grandmother was born in Dublin and raised in the West Cork town renowned for their rowing prowess. Also seeking qualification is Dubliner Cormac Comerford, Australia based Alec Scott and Winter Youth Olympian Matt Ryan, whose sister Emma Ryan is targeting the women’s event. Their father is from Dublin and mother from Roscommon.

Cross-country Skiing

Pyeongchang Winter Olympian Thomas Maloney Westgaard has already accumulated enough qualification points for the Beijing Winter Games, and will compete in the 15km event in Beijing 2022. Westgaard’s mother hails from Galway, and met his Norwegian father whilst on holiday, before moving to a small fishing island in Norway. This event is one of the oldest winter sports, and is an endurance sport, often compared to running on ice.

Freestyle Skiing

Brendan Newby, better known as Bubba, competed for Team Ireland at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics in this event, and is on the cusp of achieving qualification once more. The Cork born athlete is based in the USA where he competes in the exciting halfpipe event.

Luge

The entire Irish Luge Federation is founded based on the drive and ambition of Elsa Desmond, whose paternal grandparents are from Cavan and Cork. The UK based athlete has recently qualified as a doctor, and should she qualify for Beijing 2022, she begins work just days after her event! Luge is an event where the athlete lies on their back on a sled while sliding down a track. This is the fastest sport at the Winter Olympics with the speeds reaching up to 145kmph.

Short-Track Racing

For the first time in the history of Ireland competing at the Winter Olympics, we have an ice skater in contention for one of the spots in Men’s 1500m in Short Track Racing. Liam O’Brien (Cavan/Leitrim) is an Australian based skater, who alongside the McAnuff brothers (Ryan and Sean) has been competing for qualification points during the Olympic Qualification series which ended last weekend. With 36 athletes set to compete in Beijing, O’Brien is currently ranked between 34-37 on the qualification status, and has qualification within his grasp, pending the publication of the final qualification list on the 13 December 2021.

Skeleton

Skeleton, the event where athletes compete on a sled sliding head first down a track, is the event in which Team Ireland has had the most success at the Winter Olympics! In 2002 at Salt Lake City Clifton Wrottesley finished fourth in this event, just outside the medals! For Beijing 2022 Dubliner Brendan Doyle is currently competing in events in the USA seeking qualification in the Skeleton. Over the coming weeks his results in races in the USA and in Germany will determine his Olympic qualification. Based in Ireland for much of the year, Doyle needs results in eight competitions across his race calendar for November and December, where he is targeting fourteen competitions. After five events, he has reached his target in three events.

Snowboard

The most experienced Olympian on the Team Ireland list is Seamus O’Connor who has competed in the past two Olympic Games in the Halfpipe. The US based Snowboarder’s paternal grandparents are from Drogheda and Dublin, competing since he was five, O’Connor turned professional when he was 13. He has now achieved the qualification target for Beijing 2022 and is set to compete in his third Olympic Games, becoming the first Irish person to do so.

Maggie Rose Carrigan is an Alpine Snowboarder and is seeking qualification in the Parallel Giant Slalom. The American born athlete has an incredible story of resilience, she was diagnosed with scoliosis as a child and following surgery at 11 years of age she is now competing with the best in the world. In the women’s event in Beijing 2022 there are 31 spots on offer.

SPORTEVENTATHLETE NAMEDETAILS
Alpine SkiingFemale Slalom/Giant Slalom/Super GTess Arbez (F)Carlow/France
 Female Slalom/Giant Slalom/Super GEmma Ryan (F)Dublin/Roscommon/USA
 Female Slalom/Giant Slalom/Super GElle Murphy (F)Dublin/USA
 Male Slalom/Giant Slalom/Super GJack Gower (M)Skibbereen/Dublin/UK
 Male Slalom/Giant Slalom/Super GAlec Scott (M)/Australia
 Male Slalom/Giant Slalom/Super GCormac Comerford (M)Dublin
 Male Slalom/Giant Slalom/Super GMatt Ryan (M)Dublin/Roscommon/USA
Cross-country skiingMale 15kmThomas Westgaard (M)Galway/Norway
Freestyle SkiingMale HalfpipeBrendan Newby (M)Cork/USA
LugeFemale LugeElsa Desmond (F)Cavan/Cork/UK
Short Track SkatingMale 1500mLiam O’BrienCavan/Leitrim/Australia
SkeletonMale SkeletonBrendan DoyleDublin
SnowboardMale HalfpipeSeamus O’ConnorDrogheda/Dublin/USA
 Female Parallel Giant SlalomMaggie Carrigan/USA

SCHEDULE OVERVIEW

SportNameEventCompetition Date
CeremonyAllOpening Ceremony04-Feb
Alpine SkiingMaleDownhill06-Feb
Cross‑country skiingThomasWestgard15km06-Feb
Alpine SkiingFemaleGiant Slalom07-Feb
LugeElsa DesmondRun 1 & 207-Feb
SnowboardMaggie Rose CarriganParallel Giant Slalom08-Feb
Alpine SkiingMaleSuper G08-Feb
LugeElsa DesmondRun 3 & 408-Feb
Cross‑country skiingThomas WestgardSprint08-Feb
Alpine SkiingFemaleSlalom Run 1&209-Feb
SnowboardSeamus O'ConnorHalfpipe Qualifying09-Feb
Short track speed skatingLiam O'Brien1500m09-Feb
SkeletonBrendan DoyleRun 1 & 210-Feb
Alpine SkiingMaleAlpine Combined Downhill10-Feb
SnowboardSeamus O'ConnorHalfpipe Final (1,2, 3)11-Feb
Alpine SkiingFemaleSuper G11-Feb
Cross‑country skiingThomas Westgard15km Classic11-Feb
SkeletonBrendan DoyleRun 3 & 411-Feb
Alpine SkiingMaleGiant Slalom Run1 & 213-Feb
Alpine SkiingFemaleDownhill15-Feb
Alpine SkiingMaleSlalom Run 1&216-Feb
Alpine SkiingFemaleAlpine Combined Downhill17-Feb
Freestyle skiingBrendan NewbyHalfpipe Qualifying 1&217-Feb
Freestyle skiingBrendan NewbyHalfpipe Final (1. 2 & 3)19-Feb
Cross‑country skiingThomas Westgard50km19-Feb
CeremonyAllClosing Ceremony20-Feb

Ryan McAnuff (27) and Liam O’Brien (23) line up this weekend at the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating in Dordrecht, Netherlands (25-28 November), the final stage of four qualifying events for the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

Both McAnuff and O’Brien will be racing from tomorrow (25 November) inside the Optisport SportBoulevard. First up will be the 1500m heats and quarterfinals which will be followed later in the day by 500m preliminaries and heats. On Friday (26 November) the 1000m preliminaries and heats will take place. Subsequent rounds and finals will be held on Saturday (27 November) and Sunday (28 November).

For both skaters, the goal again will be to progress as far as they can in each distance to accumulate ranking points. There are 32 Olympic quota places in the 500m and 1000m distances and 36 in the 1500m on offer. Full rules of the Olympic qualifying procedures can be viewed here.

This will be McAnuff's season debut. After the first three World Cup events, the current World Cup Classification for O’Brien in each distance is as follows:

500m (60th), 1000m (69th), 1500m (42nd)

"I'm really excited to be back skating, especially here in the Netherlands," McAnuff said. "I hope to make Ireland proud!"

“I was really pleased with how I raced last weekend in Hungary,” O’Brien said. “I am hoping to repeat that performance this weekend in the Netherlands.”

The ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating will be streamed live on the ISU Skating YouTube channel. The event can also be followed on social media via the #ShortTrackSkating hashtag.

Schedule (Irish time)

25 November

09:21 1500m Heats
11:46 1500m Quarterfinals
14:04 500m Preliminaries
15:34 500m Heats

26 November

10:56 1000m Preliminaries
13:04 1000m Heats

27 November

09:31 1500m Ranking Finals
10:12 500m Ranking Finals
12:33 1500m Semifinals
13:26 1500m Finals
14:15 500m Quarterfinals
14:53 500m Semifinals
15:30 500m Finals

28 November

09:27 1000m Ranking Finals
12:37 1000m Quarterfinals
13:18 1000m Semifinals
13:58 1000m Finals

Irish skater Liam O'Brien marked his 23rd birthday by competing at the third ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating in Debrecen, Hungary over this weekend and posted his best result of the series so far to edge him closer to possible qualification for the 2022 Beijing Olympics next February.

On Day One of racing, O'Brien opened with the 15oom where he was drawn in Heat 14. He finished third in a time of 2:24.899 to advance to the quarterfinals later in the day. He raced in Heat 7 and came fourth with a time of 2:18.941 to move forward to the ranking finals.

O'Brien rounded out his first day of competition in Heat 14 of the 500m preliminaries where he ended up 5th in 43.614. He was classified as 71st overall at this World Cup.

For Day Two, O'Brien had just the 1000m preliminaries to contend with and he raced in Heat 9 where he skated to fourth place in a time of 1:30.732. He finished in 62nd place overall for the distance in Debrecen.

O'Brien's final race was the 1500m ranking finals on Day Three for which he was assigned to Heat 3. He came home 5th in a time of 2:31.317 to garner 38 World Cup points for his 26th placement in the distance. 

After the first three World Cups, the current World Cup classification for O'Brien in each distance is as follows:

500m (60th), 1000m (69th), 1500m (42nd)

O'Brien's exploits in Hungary put him in with a real shot of nabbing one of the 36 quota places available for the 1500m distance at the Beijing Olympics with just the final qualifying World Cup to be held next weekend (24-28 November) in Dordrecht, Netherlands.

"I am slowly building on the performances from the first two World Cups," O'Brien said. "I am happy with my skate in the 1500m and hopefully next week I can repeat similar results."

Photo Credit: International Skating Union (ISU)

Irish speed skater Liam O'Brien (22) is back competing this weekend at the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating in Debrecen, Hungary (18-21 November), the penultimate leg of four qualifying events for the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

O’Brien will be racing from tomorrow (18 November) inside the Főnix Arena. First up will be the 1500m heats and quarterfinals which will be followed later in the day by 500m preliminaries and heats. On Friday (19 November) the 1000m preliminaries and heats will take place. Subsequent rounds and finals will be held on Saturday (20 November) and Sunday (21 November).

For O’Brien, the goal again will be to progress as far as he can in each distance to accumulate ranking points. There are 32 Olympic quota places in the 500m and 1000m distances and 36 in the 1500m on offer. Full rules of the Olympic qualifying procedures can be viewed here.

After the first two World Cup events in Asia last month, the current World Cup Classification for O'Brien in each distance is as follows:

500m (60th), 1000m (60th), 1500m (45th)

"It was good to get back to my training base in Korea between the Asian and European World Cups," O'Brien said. "Since the last World Cup, I've been building on my performance and hope to improve over the coming weekend."

The ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating will be streamed live on the ISU Skating YouTube channel. The event can also be followed on social media via the #ShortTrackSkating hashtag.

IMAGE CREDIT: International Skating Union (ISU).

Schedule (Irish time)

18 November

09:36 1500m Heats
12:01 1500m Quarterfinals
14:34 500m Preliminaries
16:01  500m Heats

19 November

10:26 1000m Preliminaries
12:21 1000m Heats

20 November

10:01 1500m Ranking Finals
10:42 500m Ranking Finals
13:20 1500m Semifinals
14:13 1500m Finals
15:02 500m Quarterfinals
15:40 500m Semifinals
16:17 500m Finals

21 November

09:12 1000m Ranking Finals
13:19 1000m Quarterfinals
14:00 1000m Semifinals
14:40 1000m Finals

Short track speed skaters Sean McAnuff (24) and Liam O'Brien (22) begin their journey this weekend to secure quota places for Ireland at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games at the first of four ISU World Cup events.

McAnuff and O'Brien will be racing from tomorrow (21 October) at the Olympic test event inside the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing, China. First up will be the 1500m heats and quarterfinals which will be followed later in the day by 500m preliminaries and heats. On Friday (22 October) the 1000m preliminaries and heats will take place. Subsequent rounds and finals will be held on Saturday (23 October) and Sunday (24 October).

For McAnuff and O'Brien, the goal will be to progress as far as they can in each distance to accumulate ranking points at each World Cup event. There are 32 Olympic quota places in the 500m and 1000m distances and 36 in the 1500m on offer. Full rules of the Olympic qualifying procedures can be viewed here.

"My goals for the upcoming World Cups are to give my best effort at everything I do," McAnuff said. "I want to go through these Olympic qualfiers with a positive attitude and outlook regardless of my results. I hope to meet new athletes and connect with old friends and encourage them in their racing and training efforts. I would love to see us athletes enjoy and take part in our speed skating community in a fun and encouraging way that supports each of us and all the hard work we have put in leading up to this point."

"I am looking forward to competing at the first World Cup here in Beijing tomorrow," O'Brien said. "I hope to be able to skate strong and work towards qualifying Ireland a spot at the upcoming Winter Olympics."

The ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating will be streamed live on the ISU Skating YouTube channel. The event can also be followed on social media via the #ShortTrackSkating hashtag.

Schedule (Irish time AM)

21 October

03:40 1500m Heats
06:16 1500m Quarterfinals
08:44 500m Preliminaries
10:11 500m Heats

22 October

04:47 1000m Preliminaries
06:38 1000m Heats

23 October

03:16 1500m Ranking Finals
04:17 500m Ranking Finals
07:20 1500m Semifinals
08:13 1500m Finals
09:02 500m Quarterfinals
09:40 500m Semifinals
10:17 500m Finals

24 October

02:57 1000m Ranking Finals
07:19 1000m Quarterfinals
08:00 1000m Semifinals
08:40 1000m Finals

The Olympic flame for the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 was lit today in Ancient Olympia, Greece. This marks the start of its journey to China where, in just over 100 days, the Games will begin.

As a symbol of peace, unity and solidarity, the Olympic flame will convey the values of Olympism to all those that see it on its travels. The flame will help build anticipation amongst Olympic fans eager to witness the world’s best winter sports stars in action, whilst also inspiring thousands of athletes who are making their final preparations for these Games. Due to the COVID-19 countermeasures, today’s ceremony in Olympia was held under strict conditions, with only a limited delegation present.

The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, and several guests were in attendance, showing their solidarity with the Beijing 2022 Games. These included the President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou; the members of the IOC Executive Board ; and the IOC’s Beijing 2022 Coordination Commission Chair,  Juan Antonio Samaranch.

The Chinese delegation was led by IOC Vice-President, Special Representative and Vice-President of Beijing 2022 and Vice-President of the Chinese Olympic Committee Yu Zaiqing. The ceremony was hosted by the Hellenic Olympic Committee President and IOC member Spyros Capralos

Also present was the Mayor of Olympia, Georgios Georgiopoulos. Speaking at the ceremony, IOC President Thomas Bach made it clear that the Olympic Games have always stood above conflict: “In our fragile world, where division, conflict and mistrust are on the rise, the Olympic Games always build bridges. They never erect walls. “The foundation for the ancient Olympic Games to take place in peace was a sacred truce – the ekecheiria. This Olympic Truce ensured a halt to hostilities, allowing athletes and spectators to travel safely to Olympia and home again.

The ekecheiria demonstrates that already the ancient Greeks understood that for the Olympic Games to unfold their unifying power, they must stand above any political conflict. In this way, already 3,000 years ago, there was an inseparable link between the Olympic Games and peace.

“This peace mission, handed down to us since ancient times, requires that the Olympic Games be respected as politically neutral ground. Only this political neutrality ensures that the Olympic Games can stand above and beyond the political differences that existed in ancient times, as well as today.”

Turning to the host city, he added: “Beijing will write history as the first city ever to host both the summer and winter editions of the Olympic Games. The Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 will connect the Chinese people with the world, bringing to life China’s vision to engage 300 million people with sport on snow and ice, changing winter sport forever. The entire world will see this passion when China welcomes the best winter sport athletes.”

Peace and solidarity were an important theme throughout President Bach’s speech in Ancient Olympia. He concluded by saying: “The Olympic Games cannot address all the challenges in our world. But the Olympic Games set an example for a world where everyone respects the same rules and one another.

They inspire us to solve problems in friendship and solidarity. They build bridges leading to better understanding and friendship among people. This is the timeless message that this Olympic flame will send from our spiritual home here in Ancient Olympia, to Beijing, and to the world.”
Download the IOC President’s speech in full

Representing Beijing 2022, Yu Zaiqing said: “This is a historic moment as we are gathering here in the ancient city of Olympia to celebrate the lighting of the Olympic flame for the XXIV Olympic Winter Games.” He continued: “The Olympic flame embodies our unswerving pursuit of excellence. It highlights our resolve to always challenge our limits and surpass ourselves. And it sheds light on our journey ahead, to overcome difficulties with greater solidarity and closer cooperation.

Amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease, the Olympic flame has brought us confidence, warmth and hope. It has been a source of strength in our fight to defeat the pandemic.” The traditional ceremony, held near the Temple of Hera, celebrates the Olympic Games’ Greek heritage, connecting the modern Games to their historic origins.

After the Olympic flame was lit by the High Priestess, it began its journey with Greek skier Ioannis Antoniou, an Olympian who also assumed the role of first torchbearer for the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014.

The flame was then passed to Chinese Olympian Li Jiajun, a winner of five medals in speed skating at the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Olympic Winter Games (two silver and three bronze medals). After the ceremony, the Olympic flame will be transported to the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, where on 19 October the official handover to the Beijing 2022 Organising Committee will take place before the flame departs for China.

A welcome ceremony will be held in Beijing on 20 October, with the flame initially going on display to the public at the Beijing Olympic Tower before setting off on a flame exhibition tour. Closer to the Games, a traditional Olympic Torch Relay will be held.

More information will be announced by the Beijing 2022 Organising Committee after the arrival ceremony on 20 October. Around 2,900 athletes, representing approximately 85 National Olympic Committees, will compete in what will be the most gender-balanced Olympic Winter Games in history, between 4 and 20 February 2022.

On the 19th October at 09:35 you can watch the Olympic Flame Handover Ceremony in Beijing 2022 here:

Conor Stakelum (28) is Ireland’s sole representative at the Nebelhorn Trophy 2021 this week in Oberstdorf, Germany which serves as the final qualifying competition in figure skating for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

Stakelum joins athletes from 25 other nations who will be seeking to pick up one of the remaining seven places available in the men’s singles event next February in China. Twenty-three places were already allocated at the World Figure Skating Championships in March of this year.

The five-time Irish senior champion and native Dubliner, who trains in Dundee, Scotland under the tutelage of Olympic coach Simon Briggs, will compete in Germany over the course of two days in short programme and free skating segments.

The Nebelhorn Trophy begins tomorrow 23 September and runs until 25 September. Stakelum will compete initially tomorrow morning (Thursday, 23 September) and again in the afternoon of Friday 24 September.

This will be Stakelum's first competition since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Rink closures and travel restrictions have hampered his ability to train and compete over the past 16 months.

"I have worked very hard in the absence of competitions over the last year to improve my skating, increase the difficulty of my programmes and to be ready to compete when the chance came," Stakelum said.

During the pandemic, the Dubliner put his degree in microbiology to good use when he signed up to the HSE Be On Call for Ireland recruitment drive in 2020 and was assigned to work as a laboratory assistant at a Dublin hospital. He is currently employed by the NHS in Scotland.

Stakelum will debut two new programmes in Germany. He will perform in the free skating to "Riverdance" by Bill Whelan.

“Obviously, this is a very well-known piece of music which many people enjoy," Stakelum said. "I have always wanted to do a programme with an Irish theme so I am glad to be doing so this season."

Stakelum’s progress in Germany can be followed via live stream (links below) and the Ice Skating Association of Ireland’s social media accounts.

Nebelhorn Trophy Live Stream

Day 1 (23 September)

Day 2 (24 September)

Conor Stakelum International Skating Union Bio

Deloitte to add 300 new jobs as growth in demand for business transformation services increases

Deloitte Ireland today announces that it will become official partner to Team Ireland, signing a four year contract.

Team Ireland partnership

In addition to embarking on a significant recruitment drive, Deloitte Ireland is also announcing that it has signed a four-year deal with Team Ireland. It will be an official partner to the Olympic Federation of Ireland from now until the end of 2024. The deal will see Deloitte partner with Team Ireland for the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo in July and the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing in 2022. In addition, it sees Deloitte as the first official partner for the Paris Olympics 2024. It also covers the Summer and Winter European Youth Olympic Festival, and European Games.

Commenting Harry Goddard said: “Like Team Ireland, we recognise the importance of developing talent, being resilient, highly motivated and working hard to be the best we can be. We also know that we can make a really important contribution not only to our economy, but also to our community and we are hugely excited about this partnership. On a daily basis, we see how meaningful collaboration with our clients can deliver success, and we are excited to be collaborating with Team Ireland as they look to develop the future stars of Irish sport over the next four years.”

Peter Sherrard, Chief Executive Officer, Olympic Federation of Ireland commented: “We are very happy to welcome Deloitte as an official partner to Team Ireland in the build up to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. This is in keeping with our strategy to work with business to support the athletes and programmes of Team Ireland. The next three years will see Deloitte partner with us through two Summer and one Winter Olympic Games, as well as a host of youth and European events. I want to thank Harry Goddard and all of the team at Deloitte for their commitment to Ireland’s elite athletes who do so much to represent us internationally. The support and expertise of Deloitte on their journey is a great plus for Team Ireland.”

International Rower Philip Doyle was on hand to mark this significant announcement.

Business Announcement

Deloitte Ireland today announces that it will add 300 new jobs in response to strong demand from Irish and international clients for business transformation and advisory services. Job opportunities will be in all areas of the Deloitte business including Audit, Tax, Consulting, Financial Advisory and Risk Advisory.

The majority of these roles will be in Consulting, 100 of which are being recruited for immediately, with the remainder coming on board over the next year. Opportunities are available for professionals in digital/cloud and systems engineering, customer design, future of work, digital finance, digital supply chain, business operations, data analytics and cognitive technologies.

More broadly, Deloitte will be looking for people over the next 12 months in the areas of regulatory risk, restructuring and transaction services, actuarial services and marketing. The business will also be recruiting for audit and tax specialists in the consumer and financial services industries.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Harry Goddard, CEO, Deloitte Ireland said: “Our business adapted rapidly and effectively to the changes in the marketplace brought about by the pandemic and our focus has been on supporting our clients as they too transformed their organisations to deal with the immediate needs of a vastly different operating environment. Now, they recognise the need to drive their businesses forward to succeed in the long term, be it building resilience to withstand further disruption or addressing changes to operating models and ways of working, for example. As we anticipate increased demand for our services, we are looking to further scale our capability to support our clients.  Today’s announcement reflects the confidence and the optimism we have for the long-term success of Irish businesses.”

An Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar T.D., today welcomed the 300 jobs announcement by Deloitte. “The announcement of 300 jobs today is a real boost and vote of confidence in our economy and Ireland’s future. These are high quality jobs in technology, strategy and business operations. I wish the Deloitte team every success as they expand to meet the increased demand from their clients,” he said.

We are very excited to make our second official team selection this week with today’s announcement of Taekwondo athlete Jack Woolley being selected for Team Ireland in Tokyo this summer. Read more about this below, along with some of the highlights from the past week and a look forward to some of the competitions on the horizon, including the crucial Olympic qualifier for the 49ers in sailing. Two teams will be competing in the event in Lanzarote, with one place available for four nations.

As a reminder, the current status of Team Ireland for the Tokyo Olympics is 54 guaranteed athletes travelling to the Games, with many more sitting within qualification. The full details of the team can be found AT THIS LINK.

OLYMPIC FEDERATION OF IRELAND UPDATES

This week we launched our Team Ireland Supporter’s Shop in collaboration with clothing partner, McKeever Sports. The clothing range will expand in the coming months.

Signalling a build in excitement in the lead up to Tokyo, today’s team announcement of Jack Woolley (Taekwondo) has brought the number of officially selected athletes to two, and the first announcement since the postponement of the Olympic Games. Last year Liam Jegou (Canoe Slalom) was named and over the coming months this number will grow. The final team announcement will be as late as July 2021, with athletes and sports at various different stages in their qualification and selection journey.

Badminton

This week the Irish Badminton have been competing at the All-England Championships where Nhat Nguyen and Sam & Chloe Magee performed outstandingly, causing huge upsets in some of the earlier rounds. Nguyen defeated eighth seed Srikanth Kidambi (India) in a huge performance that has come on the back of his recovery from ‘Long Covid’ symptoms. In the Mixed event Chloe and Sam played what they believed was one of their best game to date, by overcoming number five seeds Soon Huat Goh and Shevon Jemie Lai from Malaysia by 21-19, 21-16, before losing out in the quarter finals to Japan .

Next up for the team will be the Orleans Masters next week in France where they will all hope to repeat the good form they showed this week.

Boxing

As a special St. Patrick’s Day celebration we shared a highlight from our most successful Olympic sport, boxing. Fifteen athletes with sixteen medals (thanks to the double Olympic medallist, Paddy Barnes) have together won over half of Ireland’s Olympic medals. We detailed all the medallists here, alongside a fabulous nostalgic video created by the Olympic Channel, which includes some previously unseen old footage.

We also included an interview with 1980 Olympic bronze medallist from Belfast, Hugh Russell.

Equestrian

Last weekend Irish riders claimed all of the top five places in the five star €73,000 Adequan WEF Challenge Cup Round 9 at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida, USA.

On the same weekend Olympic bronze medallist, Cian O’Connor, finished third with The Irish Sport Horse Kilkenny in the €401,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix at the same Winter Equestrian Festival, on a night where Ireland filled four of the top ten places.

Golf

The LPGA Tour takes a short break and Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow return to action at the Kia Classic in California from March 25th. World Amateur Ranked number 20 Olivia Mehaffey, makes her LPGA Symetra Tour debut today in Arizona as she receives an invite into the event.

Shane Lowry, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell compete on the PGA Tour this week at the Honda Classic in Florida.

Hockey

Over the last week the Irish Hockey team demonstrated top form in a three part match series against Olympic Champions, Great Britain. The Softco Series resulted in a tie between the two nations. In the FIRST MATCH Great Britain edged in front of Ireland, with a 2-1 win. The following day, goals from Chloe Watkins and Roisin Upton reversed the result with the Green Army winning 2-1. In the FINAL MATCH Roisin Upton made it three from three, scoring another goal, with the final score of 1-1 setting up an exciting scene for some top performances in Tokyo this summer. 

Kickboxing

Kickboxing Ireland will deliver several online webinars to support clubs and coaches in developing their understanding and skills, focusing on empowering and developing understanding and competence in areas of interest within combat sports.

Sailing

The Irish Sailing 49er Teams begin their Olympic Qualifier this Sunday in Lanzarote. This is the last chance for the teams to secure a place for Ireland in the 49er class at the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer. There are four nations in contention for one place in the 49er class: Ireland, Estonia, Italy and Belgium, and Ireland is represented by two teams: Olympian Ryan Seaton (Ballyholme Yacht Club) and Séafra Guilfoyle (Royal Cork Yacht Club); and Robert Dickson (Howth Yacht Club) and Sean Waddilove (Skerries Sailing Club).

Swimming

Swim Ireland Performance Athlete Time Trials

Swim Ireland performance swimmers in National Centre Dublin, National Centre Limerick and at South Lakes Leisure Centre, Craigavon (Armagh) have been competing in a series of time trials which began last weekend and continue through to this weekend (Friday 19th & Saturday 20th March). The series acts as a last race preparation for the Irish National Team Trials which will take place at the National Aquatic Centre Dublin from April 20th – 24th.

Taekwondo

Jack Woolley became the first Taekwondo athlete in history to qualify, and be selected to compete for Ireland at the Olympic Games. The Tallaght athlete achieved his qualification spot in December 2019 following a lengthy qualification journey, which brought him around the world. Woolley will compete on the first day of action in Tokyo, and has made no secret about his ambitions to stand on the top of the podium at the Olympic Games.

We spoke to him towards the end of last year about his colourful qualification journey.

BEIJING UPDATES

The second athlete webinar for the Beijing long list athletes was held on Thursday 18th March, which dealt with nutrition and travel plans.

Snow Sports

Last weekend the inaugural National Alpine Skiing Championships were held in Kronplatz Ski Centre in Italy, this was the first time that the event was held in snow.  The first National Champions are Cormac Comerford in the Slalom, Alec Scott in Giant Slalom, and in the women's event Tess Arbez had double success, winning the slalom and the Giant Slalom.

Matt Ryan couldn’t travel to the National Championships due to travel restrictions from the USA, however, the 2020 Youth Olympian was in good form last weekend, winning a US FIS race and scoring a personal best. 

We have a few exciting events on the radar this week, including the Green Army taking on Olympic Champions GB in hockey’s Softco Series over the weekend.  We spoke with Team Ireland hockey goalkeeper from Larne Ayeisha McFerran, (TRANSCRIPT HERE) who has been quarantining in Belfast ahead of their first clash on the 13th March. The three matches will be televised. For our winter sports, this weekend is a significant one with the first National Championship to be ever held on snow taking place in Kronplatz Ski Centre in Italy.

As a reminder, the current status of Team Ireland for the Tokyo Olympics is 54 guaranteed athletes travelling to the Games, with many more sitting within qualification. To date there has just been athlete who has been officially selected to Team Ireland – Liam Jegou (Canoe Slalom), with more announcements due to come over the coming weeks. 

The full details of the team can be found AT THIS LINK.

OLYMPIC FEDERATION OF IRELAND UPDATES

In the booklet that we wrote as part of the OFI Athletes’ Commission led Don’t Scroll By Campaign we have been highlighting some of the endorsements of athletes and coaches, over the past week. With key figures such as Bernard Dunne, Team Ireland Boxing Performance Director and David Harte who is running for the IOC Athletes’ Commission two endorsers of the campaign that has been launched to tackle online hate speech.

This week we also held the second of the Tokyo Ready Athlete Webinars, which addressed areas such as the Team Member Agreement, Selection Policies and Rule 40, as well as including a panel discussion with Jack Woolley (Taekwondo), Shane Ryan (Swimming) and Shirley McCay (Hockey).

The official dates for the Indeed Career Coach programme were launched this week – with the first courses beginning on the 22 March. This programme was developed to assist elite athletes in preparing themselves for a career outside sport. Indeed Career Coach is supported by the Athletes’ Commission, which has a key goal of looking after athlete welfare and athlete transition.

In IOC news, Thomas Bach has been re-elected as IOC President for a second term.

TOKYO UPDATES

This week the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee outlined the progress that has been made, reiterating its promise to deliver “safety first” at an Olympic Games that will excite and inspire the world.

Last month the first iterations of the Playbooks for stakeholders of the Olympic Games were issued, with the next one scheduled to be published in April. Details of the PRESS PLAYBOOK are at this link, where FAQs and Questions that were posed at the media briefing are detailed.

Yesterday it was announced that the Arrivals and Departures Information System (ADS) for accredited media has started, and that registration information is available on the Tokyo 2020 Press Operations Extranet. The ADS is a web-based system which will be used to collect all arrivals and departures data for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.  They noted that although the deadline given in the form is for the 3 March, registration continues to be accepted.

For those already registered to the Press Operations Extranet the link is HERE. For those travelling members of the media who have not yet registered you can do so HERE.  (NOTE THAT YOU NEED AN OFFICE 365/MICROSOFT ACCOUNT TO REGISTER FOR THE PRS EXTRANET).

At the 137th Session of the IOC on Thursday, it was also announced that the Pre-Games anti-doping programme for Tokyo 2020 is expected to be the most extensive ever.

Athletics

Last weekend the 2021 European Athletics Indoor Championships did not disappoint, at Torun in Poland. Ireland sent a 22 person team to compete, with many personal bests and breakthrough performances across the team. The highlight undoubtedly was a phenomenal FOURTH PLACE FROM PHIL HEALY in the 400m.

Badminton

The list of names for those qualified for European championships have been announced by Badminton Europe. HERE you can find the Team Ireland athletes who have qualified and will compete. The European Championships take place in Kyiv, Ukraine from April 27th to May 2nd, and the event is doubly important, as it also serves as an Olympic qualification event. In the lead up to the event the players will compete in the All-England Championships and the Orleans Masters Olympic qualifying event in the lead up to the Europeans.

Boxing

Keep an eye on our channels next week for a St. Patrick’s Day special….

Equestrian

Last weekend the Irish Show Jumping team of Shane Sweetnam, Bertram Allen, Michael Duffy and Cian O’Connor finished as runners up to USA at the Nations Cup in Florida, USA.

Golf

At the LPGA Drive On Championship in Florida Leona Maguire secured her best finish in the LPGA to date banking a cheque worth $47,257, valuable ranking points and further confidence in a year packed with opportunity given Solheim Cup and Olympic hopes for 2021. For now, Leona will head back to her US base at Lake Nona and log some competitive practice ahead of a return to competition in two weeks’ time. This performance moves Leona 6 places ahead to 37th in Olympic rankings, just behind Irish teammate Stephanie Meadow in 36th who carded an even par round of 72 for a one-over total and a share of 34th.

On the PGA Tour, Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry compete at The Players Championship this week at TPC Sawgrass. The event is one of the biggest of the season outside of The Major Championships and offers significant ranking points.

Hockey

The panel for this week’s clash with Great Britain at the Softco Series HAS BEEN ANNOUNCED. Taking place in Queen’s University, Belfast, Team Ireland take on the Olympic Champions on the 13, 14 and 16 March, and all three events will be televised by BBC NI and RTÉ. Ahead of the match, World Cup silver medallist Ayeisha McFerran said “With GB being Olympic Champions, us being the World Cup silver medallists, it’s always a battle. Ireland, England, any sport, no matter what the sport, it’s a battle – we always say it’s a dog-eat-dog world once we play together.” This is definitely worth tuning in to, especially with this being 125 years since the first international women’s hockey match was played between Ireland and GB.

Sailing

The 49ers have their next chance at Olympic qualification next week in Lanzarote, where they join the Laser Radial Team. Follow Irish Sailing’s Facebook Page for all the updates. The Olympic Qualifying event for the Lasers has been confirmed. It will take place at the 2021 ILCA Vilamoura International Championship, taking place on 17-24 April in Vilamoura, Portugal. This is the last chance for the Irish Laser Men to qualify with two nation places up for grabs against Italy, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands. Representing Ireland will be Finn Lynch OLY, Liam Glynn and Ewan McMahon.

Swimming

Swim Ireland Performance Athlete Time Trials

Swim Ireland performance swimmers in National Centre Dublin, National Centre Limerick and at South Lakes Leisure Centre, Craigavon (Armagh) will compete in a series of time trials over the next two weekends (Friday 12th & Saturday 13th and Friday 19th & Saturday 20th March). The series will act as a last race preparation for the Irish National Team Trials which will take place at the National Aquatic Centre Dublin from April 20th – 24th.

BEIJING UPDATES

The big news for the our winter sports this week, amid a series of World Championship events, is that this weekend the first National Championships on snow will take place, with the event occurring in Kronplatz Ski Centre in Italy, where over 300 athletes will be competing, including many athletes from other nations. 180 male and 120 female athletes including some top names will be competing. Follow the Snowsports Association of Ireland Twitter feed for updates.

Ice Skating

Rising star, Liam O’Brien, finished 29th at the Short Track Worlds in Dordrecht, the Netherlands last weekend. He raced six times over the course of three days, with an overall championship finish of 29th at the end of competition. Crucially this was the highest placement ever by an Irish short track speed skater, and has secured two spots for Ireland in the men’s category at the 2022 World Short Track Speed Skating Championships which will be held in Montréal, Canada.

Snow Sports

Last weekend Thomas Maloney-Westgaard finished a fantastic 25th position in the Men’s 50km at the World Ski Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany, after pushing himself to the limit.

Yesterday Alec Scott finished third in the FIS GS in Folgaria. Full updates can be found on the Snowsports Association of Ireland Twitter feed.

World Championship competition for our snow sport athletes continues this week, with Seamus O’Connor competing in the Snowboard Halfpipe, and Bubba Newbie competing in the Free Ski Halfpipe in Aspen.

This week we have a number of updates across the sports, with Team Ireland athletes in action in both summer and winter events. While many eyes will be on the athletics this coming weekend, we are also keeping a keen focus on the winter sports, where Irish athletes are competing in World Championship events. We spoke with Team Ireland hockey goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran, ahead of their first competition on Irish soil since 2019, when they play Olympic Champions GB in Queens University from the 13-16 March.

As a reminder, the current status of Team Ireland with less than 150 days until the Tokyo Olympics is that we have 54 guaranteed athletes travelling to the Games, with many more sitting within qualification. This number has not changed in the last number of weeks.

The full details of the team can be found AT THIS LINK which was updated this week to reflect some of the changes in ranking for athletes.

OLYMPIC FEDERATION OF IRELAND UPDATES

Last week the OFI Athletes’ Commission launched the Don’t Scroll By Campaign which had a real call to action, asking everyone to play a role in eliminating hate speech online. The campaign represented a pledge from Olympic sports organisations to keep online sport free of hate speech. In order to explain this stance we developed this booklet to highlight why this zero-tolerance approach is important, and directing people to the INAR iReport.ie tool, so that hate incidences can be registered. The Olympic Federation of Ireland also became a member of INAR (the Irish Network Against Racism) and will support their lobbying for appropriate Hate Crime Legislation.

In Winter Olympic related news, the Head of Performance for the Winter Olympics in Beijing 2022 was appointed – former international athlete Ciara McCallion from Kildare.

TOKYO UPDATES

A number of updates have come through for some of the sports, which you will see below, as well as upcoming significant events.

Athletics

This weekend the 2021 European Athletics Indoor Championships are taking place in Poland. The competition runs from the 4-7 March, and Ireland have sent a 22 person team to compete. Follow the Athletics Ireland social media accounts to keep up to date on the action. (Twitter - @irishathletics)

Badminton

The qualification timeline for Badminton was revised this week also – and where originally the process finished in April, this has now been rescheduled to the 13th June. The final date of the reallocation of places will be the 5th July.

Results from Swiss Open (Bwf Tour Super 300) Olympic qualification event

Sam and Chloe Magee are back in action at the 2021 Swiss open Bwf Tour Super 300 and Olympic qualification event. The pair made it to the last 16 after beating Callum Hemming and Victoria Williams of England 21-12 21-16, but ultimately were defeated by number 7 seeds Mark Lamsfuss and Isabel Hertrich from Germany (21-17, 21-8).  Interview here with Badminton Europe.

Nhat Nguyen also competed at the event and out in the last 32 to World number 34 Khosit Phetpradab of Thailand. Nhat won the opening game 21-12 but lost the second 21-17 and the third 21-14.

Moya Ryan and Kate Frost also won their opening round beating Annie Lado and Victoria Williams of England 21-12 9-21 21-17, and moved into the last 16 where they were defeated by World number 14 ranked pairing of Gabriela and Stefani Stoeva from Bulgaria.

Boxing

Last week the news was announced that the world qualifiers for boxing were cancelled, with the spots being allocated to the continents from that. This week we learnt that these European qualifiers will take place in Paris from the 4-8 June 2021.  We have updated the chart in our link.

Here is a useful FAQ

Equestrian

Irish Show Jumping team manager Michael Blake has named the Irish team for the first Nations Cup of the season which takes place in Florida, USA. Read more HERE.

Golf

Leona Maguire secured a T16 finish at the Gainbridge LPGA Championship in Florida last weekend resulting in a ten place jump in the World Rolex Rankings to 167th.  Stephanie Meadow (ranked 125th in the Rolex Rankings) and Maguire both compete at the LPGA Drive On Championship this weekend. Live coverage will be available on the Sky Sports Golf YouTube Channel.

Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell begin the AP Invitational at Bay Hill today on the PGA Tour.

Hockey

This week Hockey Ireland announced the Softco Series which will take place in Queen’s University, Belfast. Team Ireland will take on Team GB (Olympic Champions) on the 13, 14 and 16 March. All three events will be televised, with the first two being broadcast by BBC NI, and the latter by RTÉ. We spoke with Ayeisha McFerran ahead of their competition.

Taekwondo

World Taekwondo Restarts – Jack Woolley returns to the Sofia Open in Bulgaria on Sunday 7th Match where he hopes to return to the podium. The last World Taekwondo Open tournament was last years edition of the Sofia Open in March where Woolley secured gold. With no less than 26 qualified Tokyo Olympians attending the championships the event should prove to be an exciting and valuable excercise when returning to the ring. The -58kg fighter travels to Sofia direct from Belgrade where he has just undergone a 2 week camp with some of the world’s highest ranking athletes. The behind closed doors event will be live streamed at HERE

BEIJING UPDATES

This week we held the first of a series of webinars with the winter athletes, where relevant issues for athletes were presented by Chef de Mission for Beijing, Nancy Chillingworth.

Ice Skating

Rising star, Liam O’Brien, will be competing for Team Ireland at the Short Track Worlds in Dordrecht, the Netherlands (more information here). The competition runs from the 5-7 March, and O’Brien will be one of 115 athletes from 29 countries to compete at the event.

Snow Sports

This week Pyeongchang Olympian Thomas Maloney-Westgaard is competing in the Stora Enso FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany. In yesterday’s Men’s 15.0km Interval Start Free, he finished 41st, wearing bib 1!

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