Ireland will be sending arecord equalling six athletes to next year’s Winter Olympic Games in Korea and there may yet be another three to join them.
A group of Irish Winter Olympic hopefuls gathered in Dublin yesterday for a series of workshops hosted by the Olympic Council of Ireland and the Sport Ireland Institute of Sport.
The workshops looked at a number of aspects of what it is like to compete at a Winter Olympic Games. This included preparing for the Olympic experience, Korean culture, anti-doping procedures as well as the medical support available at the Games.
The Olympic Council of Ireland has supported five of Ireland’s eligible Winter Olympic hopefuls through the Olympic Scholarship run in conjunction with the International Olympic Committee.
The five athletes received grants of €17,000 as well as an additional €4,700 to assist with travel to Olympic qualifying competitions.
Tess Arbez, Patrick McMillan and Kieran Norris in Alpine skiing, Seamus O’Connor from Snowboarding and Brendan Doyle from Skeleton are among the group who have also been assisted with access to the Sport Ireland Institute services that include sports science and medical advice as well as athlete lifestyle services.
The cut off to achieve the necessary qualification standards and crucial world ranking points is January 24th, after which time the final Irish team will be named.
“I am delighted that for the first time we have six athletes who have achieved the necessary qualification standard to be eligible for selection to represent Ireland at the Winter Olympic Games,” said Olympic Council of Ireland President Sarah Keane.
“The commitment and dedication shown by these athletes to represent Ireland is phenomenal particularly, given the challenge some of their sports face in terms of profile and support in this country where the tradition of high performance in Winter Sports is still very much developing.”
Ireland came within half a second of securing a first ever Winter Olympics medal in 2002 when Clifton Wrottesley came fourth in the Skeleton event.
Given the challenges that the Olympic Council of Ireland has faced in the past twelve months in areas of governance, administration and the loss of sponsors, the base from which to rebuild has been lowered but at least the Youth Olympic Games in Hungary this summer where Sarah Healy won 1500 Metre gold and a well prepared, athlete-focused preparation schedule for Pyeongchang shows that there is progress being made under the ‘new management’ in Howth.
Whether this follows through at such an early stage into sponsorship support for the Irish team remains at an early stage but with there will be those who are willing to step in, including perhaps some who are reading this, and for whom an association with the Winter Olympics would represent an investment in talent and fresh starts that would have commercial appeal.
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