Winter Youth Games Athlete profiles

February 9, 2011

Youth Olympic athletes give an insight into their background prior to the EWYOF in Liberec Feb 2011.






Sean Lyne 


“I am 15 years old. I moved to Logan, Utah at the age of 1. If I had not moved to Utah I would have probably never started skiing. Luckily I did.

My dad’s name is John Lyne and is from Brandon, Tralee, Co. Kerry. Anna (O’Neill) is my mom’s name and she is from Hospital, Co. Limerick. Both of my parents come from large families.

My mom has eight siblings and my dad four. My parents come from athletic backgrounds that go back two generations from playing hockey, handball, volleyball, basketball, hurling and rugby.


My grandfather on my mom’s side was an avid sportsman and loved both Gaelic football and hurling I go to Ireland every summer and love meeting up with my extended family.  I especially like going to Brandon for it is by the coast so I get to go fishing, swimming, boating, and golfing and have now established a network of friends there. At the age of 4 I began skiing and went through all the ski schools levels at Beaver Mountain (a local ski resort).


Once I was at the highest level and surpassed that level, my parents wanted me to keep going further with skiing to develop control and improve my technique. At this time, the Beaver Mountain Ski Team was established and the Coach was Ignacio Birkner who skied in the Calgary Olympics for Argentina. I was 8 at the time and was also one of the few first members of the team. I began training and soon started going to races. By my third year on the team I won almost every race that year in the YSL (Youth Ski League). After that year, my Coach decided that it would be better for me to move into the SS (South Series) division. South Series is a much more competitive and tougher league. In my SS races my average placing was 6th.


I was invited to attend the North/South Series Invitational at Sun Valley Idaho. I also made it to the IMD (Inter Mountain Division) Champs and placed 4th in GS and 15th in SL. After my last SS year,. I went to Barlioche, Argentina for summer training. There I trained with team members and some Argentinian skiers. My Coach in Argentina was Ramon Birkner (Ignacio’s brother and World-Cup/Europa Cup ski coach). I learned a lot about what I could do to improve my skiing that summer.


So I put it to use and my skiing improved greatly. After South Series, I moved into the J-3’s. J-3’s is a division where you can qualify for the Junior Olympics. My first year in the J-3’s, I was one of 26 athletes chosen from the states of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming to partake in the Junior Olympics at Brundage Mountain, McCall, Idaho. I did well there. I placed 23rd overall in GS, and was in 10th position in SL after first run but unfortunately crashed in 2nd run. I earned the Hardcharger Award for the biggest position jump from my starting number to finishing place. In my second year in J3’s I crashed a lot and did not finish high enough to qualify for the JO’s. In the races I finished I placed 5th. . This coming ski season I will be entering FIS. I would like the opportunity to go to the Czech Republic to represent my country. I think that I will do well in representing my country in this event. I am a good skier and I have confidence in my skiing. I have greatly improved over the last couple of years through dedication and hard work.


My goal is to one day compete in the Olympics and this would be an important step for me to take. I have had a lot of race experience and that will allow me to do my best and be competitive if I am selected. I also do dry land training which prepares me for the rough conditions that are in ski racing. I go to the gym around four times a week. On the days I am not at the gym I will go on either a mountain bike or a road bike ride. As I have done in previous years before the ski season, I will complete a fitness program called Acceleration. The people there make the routine skiing specific and it really helps me get in shape. I would also love to be able to race against fellow Europeans.


I think that this would give me a great change of view. I have been racing against mostly Americans for the last couple of years and I would like to see what the competition is like elsewhere. Those are some of the reasons why I would love to go to the Czech Republic and represent my country and I appreciate you considering me for nomination to attend the European Youth Olympic Festival” 


Kristen Sweeney


“At age two, I started skiing at a small mountain in Connecticut called Mount Southington. I would ski at Southington regularly on the weekends and eventually at the age of seven I joined their race team. I skied for Mount Southington until the age of eleven and then moved to another small ski area in New York State, Thunder Ridge. I trained at Thunder Ridge Wednesday and Thursday nights and the weekend. Thunder Ridge was a very fun but rare mountain to ski at. With the animals running around the race hill, Thunder (the mountain dog) and the paintball arena at the top, you never knew when an animal or a person would enter your course.


As my skiing developed and I began to enjoy the sport more and more it was time for me to find a ski academy where I could train and do academics together. The Green Mountain Valley School (GMVS) in Waitsfield, Vermont fitted the definition of a perfect school where I could pursue my athletic and academic goals. It is now my second year attending GMVS and I love it. Achievements in my ski-racing career have been attending the Junior Olympics as a J3. In these races I did fairly well, despite the fact that I was competing injured. Last year in the early season I fell skiing in Colorado and injured my knee.


I was not allowed to ski for six weeks, but once I came back I got third at a NVC J3 race at Cochran’s and got top 15 in all of my other races. Towards the end of my J3 season my knee started bugging me again and my only option was to get surgery. At the end of March I got surgery on my knee and was out for 6 months. I had to go to PT four times a week for six months. It took a lot of time and effort to rehab my knee, but I got there. In September 2010 I started skiing again in Valle Nevado, Chile. It felt great to get back on snow! In November GMVS went on another trip to Nakiska, where we trained slalom and giant slalom next to many national teams!


I am very excited to be racing for Ireland and even more important I am looking forward to the European Youth Olympic Festival in Liberec. We have a strong team heading out there to compete and it should be a lot of fun!”


Victoria Bell


“I put on my first pair of skis in Obergurgl, Austria. I was 2 years old and I have loved Skiing, snow and mountains ever since! My father has always been super-keen on skiing so we used to take skiing holidays for New Year, spring half term and at Easter. I also spent the winter term of 2007 at Aiglon College in Villars, Switzerland where PE, in the winter, takes the form of skiing and where my desire to race was ignited.


I was selected for the Aiglon College ski team and took part in a few local races there, I came home wanting to do more of it and found a race training coach near where I live. My first real race was at the Welsh Championships in Champery, Switzerland in January 2008. I have regularly trained with the British Ski Academy based in Les Houches, France. More recently, I spent a couple of months during the summer holidays in New Zealand and Australia where I trained and continued my FIS racing. I was delighted to come 6th at Slalom in the Australian National Championships in Thredbo. At school, I did better than I had dared hope for in my GCSE examinations and I am studying for my A levels in Business Studies, Government & Politics, RS and Geography. School is kindly allowing me to study for these examinations over 3 years rather than 2 so that I can commit myself 100% to ski racing in the winter.


I am thrilled to now have my GS points at 134 and, having fully recovered from shoulder surgery in May, I am ready to face the coming Alpine season! It is my goal to represent Ireland at the Olympic Games – I would feel very proud indeed to be part of the Irish team. My first step to that ultimate goal would be to compete on behalf of Ireland at the European Olympic Youth Festival in 2011, the World Junior Championships and the inaugural Youth Olympic Games at Innsbruck in 2012. My school is fully supportive and very excited at the prospect of having an Olympian as a pupil! They are allowing me to study for my A levels over 3 years rather than 2 so that I am free to train and compete in FIS races each winter.

I have a full programme set up to cover spring and summer dry land training as well as summer, autumn and winter training on snow. All of this is with the aim of me being fit enough and competitive enough to do well in the competitions I have already mentioned. In July and August this year I trained and raced in New Zealand and Australia. This week I am going to France and-will follow that up on November 4th with training and racing in Colorado and California up until Christmas followed by more training and racing in Europe from December 27th onwards. I am absolutely committed to my sport”.


Hubert Gallagher

“Representing Ireland in the European Youth Olympics has been my main aim for the past three or four years.  I first heard about the 2006 Youth Olympics in when the Irish team was going out in 2007.  I knew all of the team through skiing in Kilternan, hearing about the festival and the competitive racing with some of the best junior racers in the world, inspired me to aim for the EYOF.

I have been doing a lot of training since then, and I have also competed in several children’s races for Ireland.  I competed in the Trofeu De Borrufa in 2006 for the first time.  I loved the experience and the thrill of racing.  I went back to compete again in 2008 and 2009, when I was in the Children 2 category.  I also competed in Topolino 2008 & 2009. I carried the Irish flag for the opening ceremony the first year which was a great honour.  This race includes all the best Children 1 and 2 racers in the world.  I even got to train with US Ski Team for a few days. 

The experiences I took from these races leads me to want to represent Ireland even more, and this is why I want to have the honour of skiing for Ireland at the European Youth Olympic Festival in 2011, and hopefully use it as a stepping stone to representing Ireland in further international races.”



Left to Right; Victoria Bell, Hubert Gallagher, Sean Lyne, and Kristen Sweeney



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