Canoe Slalom racer Liam Jegou has become the first Team Ireland athlete to be selected for the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer.
Originally from Ballyvaughan in County Clare, Jegou has already stamped his mark on the international stage, winning silver in the 2014 Junior World Championships and bronze in the 2019 U23 World Championships.
The 24-year-old will compete in the C1 category at the Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre in Tokyo from the 26-27 July 2020.
Jegou is the second Irish athlete ever to compete in the C1 Canoe Slalom at the Olympic Games, with the only other athlete being Mike Corcoran, who last competed in Atlanta 1996, the year in which Jegou was born. Eoin Rheinisch was the last Canoeist to compete for Ireland at an Olympic Games. he took part in Athens, Beijing and most recently in London in 2012.
“Being an Olympian has always been one of my biggest dreams,” said Jegou.
“I started training when I was 11-12, the past month has been unbelievable knowing that I am going to compete for Team Ireland in the Olympics.”
“In my sport the Olympics is everything, it’s what everyone works for in their sport. It’s such a select thing. There’s only one athlete per nation that gets to go and when you to go you just want to give it your all. Most people only get to go to the Games once or twice in their lives, and I’m certainly not going to let the opportunity pass me.”
“It’s very exciting, this is our first athlete to be approved as part of Team Ireland for the 2020 Olympics – it’s great for the sport and great for Liam,” added Olympic Federation of Ireland Chef de Mission for Tokyo 2020, Tricia Heberle.
“There is a tremendous amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to support sports and our athletes to qualify and perform at the Games.”
“It’s a real team effort with our National Federations, the Sport Ireland Institute and a range of other support groups working together with the athletes as our priority. Liam has his own story and we are so pleased to be supporting the next chapter in his journey as he prepares for the Tokyo Olympic Games.”
“It’s big for any sport to qualify for an Olympic Game,” added Canoeing Ireland Performance director Jon Mackey.
“For canoeing, it’s great for the exposure of the sport, we are relatively small, and it’s great to tap into the proud tradition of Irish canoeing at the Olympic Games.”
Ireland has a rich history in K1 Canoe Slalom, with Ian Wiley and Eoin Rheinisch competing in the event for three Olympic Games each between 1992 and 2012. Eadaoin Ní Challarain was the first Irish female canoe slalom racer, competing in the K1 in 2000 and 2004, and in London 2012 Hannah Craig raced in this event also.
Jegou was nominated for the 2020 slot after finishing on top in the three-race selection criteria, which included the World Championships in Spain, the event in which Ireland qualified the coveted Olympic berth courtesy of Robert Hendrick, another talented Irish racer.
This is the first official Team Ireland Tokyo team announcement. Many sports have ongoing selections and competitions with team announcements expected to come more frequently as we approach the summer, with the final announcement scheduled for the beginning of July.
Read More: Get to meet Liam Jegou in our Daily Video – Olympic Dreams on the Paddle
Image Credit: Canoe Ireland