Going the Extra Mile

The Irish Presidency of the European Union and the Irish Sports Council hosted a major EU Conference on Sport at Dublin Castle on Thursday, March 7th.  All this week we are looking at different aspects of what was discussed, and considering the long term implications for how sport is organised and promoted.

Much was said, naturally about the models of funding required to run the sport but there was also an important session mid way through the day which brought Olympians Olive Loughnane and Eoin Rheinisch to the stage and enabled them give a perspective from the Locker Room.

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[ismember]Perspectives from the Athletes

Olive Loughnane and Eoin Rheinisch, Olympians

Olive Loughnane competed in the Walk event at three Olympic Games, most recently in London and while she has now hung up her runners she is an articulate spokesperson for the athletes that went into sport for one reason or another and found themselves making greater and greater commitment.

“I was never the sporty one at school and was actually quite uncoordinated but had a teacher who suggested athletics was my thing, she said in conversation on stage with RTE Presenter John Murray.

“The problem then was that I was not very fast but I did have endurance and it was matching a sport to my skill that led me to walking.”

“Involvement in sport is great for kids, regardless of whether they are among the very few who go on to participate in elite sport or the many who benefit just by picking up good health and habits that will stand to them throughout their lives.”

“The setting of goals is a vital part of training and helps keep you going through what can be a lonely and fairly tortuous training regime.”

“In team sports you have the back up of your friends and team mates who you can see going through the same as you but in a solo sport like athletics that can be very different and you really have to dig within yourself to do the miles that will hopefully bring a reward at the end.”

“The transition from hard training to a more relaxed environment has been OK but the focus of a routine actually makes it easier to train every day rather than where most people are looking at two or three times a week.”

“I have been told at home a couple of times that ‘now would be a good time to leave the house and go for a walk’ so maybe my idea of the transition is slightly different from those around me…”

Eoin Rheinisch has a similar Olympic pedigree and came within an inch of a medal at Beijing finishing fourth.

“We are supported in part through grants from the Sports Council and that does make a big difference but to be an elite athlete requires a lot of financial as well as physical stress.”

“My sport of canoeing has some but limited facilities here in Ireland but hopefully that is changing.”

“throughout my preparations for Olympics I have spent 200 days of the year training overseas.”

“As you can imagine that is not easy to combine with a role in paid employment so family, friends and fundraisers have to supplement what we get in order to travel for training and competition.”

“When you look back on careers like ours you see the significant overall investment that has been put into us, whether financially or through training and knowledge.”

“It is important at the end of a life in active sport that this knowledge is somehow kept and passed on.  Athletes like Kenny Egan would have a huge amount to give back to sport and it would be a great shame to lose that through not having a structure in place to accommodate it.”

“Amateur sport does not set us up for life financially when we finish and a living has to be made somewhere.”

Both athletes focused on the need to look beyond the elite programmes, highlighting the importance of targeting ‘at risk’ groups such as women, those with disability and those living in disadvantaged areas.

While it is never easy to make it to the top in sport, access at a starter level should be open to all and encouraged for everyone.[/ismember]

Coming later this week –

Thursday: The Legal twists and turns of sports rights with Benoit Keane and how Public Service Broadcasting retains its vital importance with Ryle Nugent of RTE.

Friday: The value of sport in lifting spirits through great performance versus the deeper benefit of giving opportunities to play with Stefan Szymanski.

Discover more of our recent comment and analysis of Sports Governance including Munster Rugby’s new Commercial Board, Domestic Soccer getting back in the black and how GAA Revenues have continued to rise.

Your membership of Sport for Business entitles you to free participation in our programme of Round Table events, the next of which takes place in London on March 21st and which will cover the role of Sport and the Irish Abroad.


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