Ireland at the Winter Olympics: The Greens still waiting for their first Gold

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The Winter Olympic Games is one of Team Ireland’s last hurdles in the international sports world as athletes travel to China next year

Although Ireland is a very cold and wet nation, it is not traditionally very snowy and it may surprise many that we have a strong winter sports program.

Where it all began

We officially began our icy journey back in 1988 when English-born businessman Larry Tracey became infatuated with the sport of bobsleigh. Both his parents were Irish and after getting lessons from his wife, he wished to make a team to travel to the Games in Calgary.

Although they qualified, the Irish Olympic Council withdrew the team 10 days before the competitions start. A court injunction could not help with Tracey’s dream and he would have to wait four more years.

Ireland sent two pair-bobsleigh teams to Albertville made of Pat McDonagh and Terry McHugh as well as Gerry Macken and Malachy Sheridan. These teams would go on to finish 32nd and 38th out of 46 crews in an impressive debut for Tracey’s men.

Team Ireland would then continue to send between four and six athletes to all of the subsequent Winter Games.

In 1994, we sent our first four-man sleigh team and skiing competitor.

The Salt Lake City Games in 2002 would be Ireland’s most successful and storied competition. Tamsen McGarry was our first female athlete at the games and at 43 years old, Paul O’Connor was not just the first cross-country skier but also the oldest ever competitor in that event.

Most notable was Clifton Hugh Lancelot de Verdon Wrottesley, 14th Baronet, 6th Baron Wrottesley who competed in the skeleton. He became a small celebrity after finishing in fourth place, 0.42 seconds off a medal in the event. He would later become a successful coach of the Irish team in later years.

In 2010, Ireland sent their first women’s bobsleigh team to the Vancouver Games. Aoife Hoey and Claire Bergin would finish in a very respectable 17th place.

At the 2014 Sochi Games in Russia, Utahn Seamus O’Connor was the first Irish athlete to debut in the snowboarding events. He would rank 17th overall in the slopestyle and 15th in the halfpipe.

Cork-born Bubba Newton became the first qualifier in freestyle skiing at the last Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

Who are our athletes with the next chance to win a medal?

Now there are a few athletes preparing and qualifying for our eighth edition of the Winter Olympics, next year in China.

There are currently three Irish athletes qualified for the next Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. The IOC will send two athletes (man and woman) as part of the Alpine skiing team and one man as part of Cross-country skiing.

The Beijing 2022 Games will commence on the 4th of February until the 20th of February.

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