An extremely encouraging performance on Friday – and one that bodes well for the future, – from Florence Bell the young 15 years old student, Ireland’s sole representative at the 2012 Youth Olympics in Innsbruck.
Competing in the Ladies Alpine Skiing Slalom final which included champions from various continents inc North and South America, Asia and Oceania as well as Europe, Florence came 24th from a field of 54, particularly encouraging in the difficult conditions on the
Patscherkofel mountain and taking into consideration that she was one of the youngest taking part in the competition.
The conditions were dreadful; rain followed by blizzard. The snow was treated with chemicals which made it rock-hard and very difficult to get a grip on – coming from a ‘non-snow’ nation that made Florence’s performance all the more praiseworthy.
Among the many older and more experienced competitors who finished behind Florence on this occasion (or did not finish at all in the terrible conditions) were Great Britain’s Rachelle Rogers,Veronica Olivieri of Italy, Mikaela Tommy of Canada,Christina Ager of the host nation, Nora Grieg Christensen, the Norwegian champion and Clara Direz of France, a gold medal winner two days earlier.
Victory went to Petra Vlhova from Slovakia who found the fastest way through the poles in the Slalom – literally by boxing them away!
Silver went to Canadian Roni Remme (+1,45). Ekaterina Tkachenko (RUS/+1,86) took bronze.
Florence will have greatly benefit from the experience and will no doubt have heeded the words of Youth Olympics Ambassador, the great American Lindsey Vonn who said that success for athletes at the Innsbruck 2012 Winter Youth Olympics is not about leaving with a medal. It is about leaving it with experience.
“It’s not necessarily about whether you win or lose,” the American alpine ski star Vonn said at Patscherkofel mountain . “It’s that you see who you’re competing against and that there is a lot of other international competitors out there.”
Remember it took Vonn – who holds 47 World Cup wins – three Olympics before winning a medal.
“That’s something you can’t get from just any other race,” she went on . “You have to be able to see the international field and that’s the most important part.”
From an Irish viewpoint it was great to see that I.O.C Executive Committee member Pat Hickey, Chairman of the Olympic Council of Ireland was present to see Florence in action as of course was Chef de Mission Jim Devine.
Writing in her “Olympic Diary”, Florence had this to say of her experience on Friday:
“When I woke this morning, it was raining; never a good thing for ski racing! We were up on the race hill in Patscherkofel early and it was still raining!! At about 9.30am the rain turned to snow and with gusts of wind, the snow turned into a blizzard at times,(coach) Lynn (Sharp) thought that the Slalom might actually be cancelled, but it wasn’t!
Mr Hickey and his wife took the trouble to come and watch my race, which I thought was amazing since Mr Hickey is so busy at this event. The boys, who will race tomorrow, were not able to train because the conditions were so bad. The race piste had been treated with chemicals which have the effect of melting the snow which then freezes hard because the air temperature is so cold. This was unlike the warm-up area so, as well as being very tense at the start of the race, I had the surprise/shock of the unusual surface when I left the start-gate.
My first run was not at all as good as would have hoped for. I was really unlucky to just miss out on the “flip” and ended the first run in 31st position (18 girls having fallen or skied-out). By the time of the second run, the chairlift had been closed because of the high winds. So we had to take the T Bar to half-way up the race piste and the walk the rest – thankfully, Jim carried my skis up for me.
My second run was much, much better (even though I started the 2nd run in 31st place) and I was really happy to finish the race in 24th position. This is a new best record for Ireland in Alpine ski racing at an Olympic Games. The previous best was 32nd (achieved at the Turin Olympics in 2006). I am really proud to have broken the previous record and to have made my family and, I hope, Ireland proud “.
So Ireland’s involvement in the first ever Winter Sports Youth Olympics comes to an end in Innsbruck but Florence Bell was have benefited considerably from the experience of participating in this great Festival of youth.
As Baron Pierre de Coubertin , founder of the Modern Olympics said :
“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”
One is reminded too of the words of Doris Corbett at the First International Conference on Sports and Human Rights in Sydney in 1999:
“It is commonly accepted that through sport one learns to persevere, to sacrifice, and to be self-disciplined, to work hard, to follow orders, to be a leader, and to work with others”
“Ethical and moral behaviour in sport is being challenged from all sides: professional,college, high school, and even in youth sports.
Some would say that fair play, or sportsperson-ship is a relic of the past, and that we have to be reminded of its value and work hard
to preserve ethical and moral behaviour in sport because otherwise it will continue to dwindle away as other values have done in our society. In the midst of daily sporting scandals,
it seems doubly important that we recommit ourselves to an ethical, and moral behaviour in sport.
As for Irish skiing, the S.A.I’s new Snowsports Web site was launched this week to coincide with the Innsbruck games and World Snow Day tomorrow Sunday 22nd Jan. http://snowsports.webtrade.ie/
A great day out in store for families tomorrow as Ireland participates in World Snow Day with a Festival at the Ski Club of Ireland, Kilternan, Co. Dublin . A great family fun day, celebrating the first season of their New Snowflex Slope and the First FIS World Snow Day.
Seamus O’Connor competes in Oslo in the World Snowboard Championships in February and in March the first Irish Schools team travel to to Italy for the the World Schools Ski Championships 2012 from 5th to 10th March 2012 in the Aosta Valley-Gressoney.
The promotion of Winter Sports in Ireland through the schools remains vital for the future . The Irish teams will be announced at the World Snow Day tomorrow. The teams will comprise of 5 girls and 5 boys, all of whom are enrolled in a school in Ireland since the beginning of 2011/2012 school year.
The Snowsports Association of Ireland (formerly known as the Ski Association of Ireland) was formed in 1971 and is affiliated to the International Governing Body of the sport, namely Federation Internationale De Ski (FIS) and subsequently the Olympic movement through the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) indeed the association has been affiliated to the Federation Internationale De Ski for more than twenty years and the Olympic Council of Ireland since 1997.
Here courtesy of the Youth Games organisers some of the highlights from Innsbruck todate.