There is a giddy sense of expectation growing around Irish sport as we close out 2018 and that was clearly evident at the Sport Ireland Institute yesterday with three major announcements, all of them building blocks on the way to podium finishes at Tokyo 2020 and beyond.
First on the cards was a partnership agreement between the Olympic Federation of Ireland and the Sport Ireland Institute which will provide for continuity of support services to athletes for an initial period of four years through to 2022.
The Memorandum of Agreement between the two was signed last week but has effectively been in preparation and execution over the past year according to Institute Director Liam Harbison speaking to us yesterday.
“The agreement covers our providing the kind of support services on a consistent and professional basis that athletes need to be at their best in preparing for major tournaments and then delivering to the best of their ability.”
This will mean covering athlete life-skills, sports science and medicine as well as various Games readiness activities before, during and after Games time. The first example will be a programme on mental strength put together by the Athletes Commission that will be delivered next week.
Having a coordinated approach will mean it is easier to have a group of known and experienced support professionals on hand and fully accredited come the Tokyo 2020 Games.
There will likely be a few kinks to iron out when it comes to team sports like the Rugby Sevens and the Hockey programmes which will have their own long term support but discussions are already underway and the Olympics will need to be recognised as a separate, complex and very much multi-sport environment in which the normal rules of engagement may need to be adapted.
Previously Irish Olympians did not always have the same medical support care team looking after their needs before, during and after Games. Instead there was often a handover of care from one medical team to another at Games time. Following feedback from athletes post the Rio Games the OFI and Sport Ireland institute came together to put this new athlete centred support plan in place.
It’s less of a handover and more of a hands on approach that we are putting in place and that will be good for the athletes in terms of providing the best possible support.
The Olympic Federation of Ireland and Sport Ireland have agreed to jointly fund this new partnership and it will be delivered through partnership across the two organisations, the National Governing Bodies and the Performance Directors.
It will be managed by a Programme Oversight Group consisting of Liam Harbison and Phil Moore from the Institute and Peter Sherrard and newly appointed Chef de Mission Patricia Heberle from the OFI.
“Today’s partnership agreement is a major step forward in placing the athlete first and comes at a crucial time as preparations for Tokyo gather pace,” said OFI President Sarah Keane.
“Our strategy is clear on the need to deliver for athletes. The provision of Sport Science and Medical care from Sport Ireland Institute practitioners during games time makes this a very important day for High Performance sport in Ireland. Team Ireland is now functioning as a team with the whole system working together seamlessly for our athletes. I want to thank John Treacy and Sport Ireland, as well as my own Board for helping to bring it about.”
“On behalf of Sport Ireland, we are delighted to see this new aligned approach in the Irish High-Performance System toward Olympic Games preparation and performance,” added John Treacy.
“The closer collaboration throughout the Olympic Games four-year cycle between the Olympic Federation of Ireland, Sport Ireland Institute, Sport Northern Ireland and the National Governing Bodies of sport will lead to more effective and targeted use of resources, increased performance support to Team Ireland and provide the all-important continuity of care to athletes.”
“This is a big step forward and we’d like to congratulate all parties involved who have worked very hard to put this partnership in place.”
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