Ireland unveil line-up for Sochi Winter Olympics

Teenagers Seamus O’Connor and Florence Bell included in five-strong squad


Ireland will send a five-strong squad to next month’s Winter Olympics, including teenagers Seamus O’Connor and Florence Bell.

At 16, O’Connor is one of the most exciting young talents in the snowboarding world. Although born in San Diego, California, the O’Connor family moved to Park City, Utah to avail of the snowboarding facilities in the region.

Since declaring for Ireland – his grandparents hail from Drogheda and Dublin – he won the European Junior Half-Pipe champion at just 12 years of age.

O’Connor is a full-time professional snowboarder and trains in Colorado and will enjoy the advantage of some vocal sport as his grandparents live 100km from Sochi, his mother having been born in Siberia .

Bell, who is almost 18, was born in Birmingham to a Northern Ireland family and took up skiing at 12.

She represented Britain until 2009, winning a European indoor championship , before joining her sister Victoria in declaring for Ireland.

She represented Ireland at the first ever World Youth Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria in 2012 and at the 2013 European Youth Winter Olympics in Romania.

Bell will compete in both the downhill slalom and giant slalom events, two disciplines that Conor Lyne will also take part in at the Games.

Lyne, 21, who lives in Logan, Utah, competed for Ireland at the last two Skiing World Championships in 2011 and 2013, but this will be his first Winter Olympics.

“Ever since I started skiing competitively as I teenager it has been my dream to represent Ireland at a Winter Olympics,” said Lyne, whose father is from Kerry and mother from Limerick.

“When you come from a small country some people say why send them, but you have got to start off somewhere and who knows, in a couple of Games we could be looking at medals.

“The sport and the tradition needs a push to get going. The Jamaican bobsleigh team are a great example of a team that started out and kept improving.”

The Irish team is completed by two 26-year-olds in Sean Greenwood and Jan Rossiter.

Vancouver-born Greenwood will compete in the skeleton, the event made famous in Ireland by the heroics of Clifton Wrottesley, who finished fourth at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.

Greenwood is a commercial helicopter pilot and is based in Whistler, Canada and took up the sport after playing rugby and is currently ranked 25th in the world.

Cross-country skier Rossiter was born in Cork to an Irish father and Czech mother and grew up in Kingston, Ontario.

Speaking on the announcement of the squad today, Ireland Chef de Mission Stephen Martin said: “We expect the Games to be an important milestone in the development of Irish Winter Olympic talent and are confident of excellent individual performances in the face of severe competition from the alpine nations.”

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