Ireland names six-strong Beijing Winter Olympics team

Athletes are currently in a pre-games camp before flying out to Beijing on Wednesday

 

Team Ireland have confirmed the selection of six athletes for the 2022 Winter Olympics, which open in Beijing on Friday week, February 4th, and continue until Sunday February 20th.

Among them are Elsa Desmond in the luge, the first time that Ireland will have a luge athlete in the Winter Olympics, male or female, with Jack Gower also making his Olympic debut in alpine skiing.

Elsa Desmond becomes Ireland’s first ever Olympic luge athlete. Photograph: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Elsa Desmond becomes Ireland’s first ever Olympic luge athlete. Photograph: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

The other four previously competed in Pyeongchang in 2018, Tess Arbez in alpine skiing , Brendan ‘Bubba’ Newby in freestyle skiing, Thomas Maloney Westgaard in cross country skiing and Seamus O’Connor in the snowboard halfpipe. O’Connor also competed in Sochi in 2014, making this his third Winter Olympics.

Seamus O’Connor will be competing in the Snowboard Halfpipe. Photograph: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Seamus O’Connor will be competing in the Snowboard Halfpipe. Photograph: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

The six-strong team equals the highest number of Irish qualifiers before, for a fourth time, 2022 also marking the eighth Winter Olympic Games for Team Ireland since 1992, bringing the total number of Irish Winter Olympians to 33.

The Team Ireland athletes are currently at a pre-games camp in Innsbruck, ensuring they can train in a controlled and safe environment in the days leading up to travelling to Beijing, on Wednesday.

“The resilience and determination that these athletes displayed throughout the qualification process and throughout the challenges with which they were faced is a credit to them,” said Team Ireland Chef de Mission Nancy Chillingworth.

“Throughout the past few years, due to Covid, athletes have endured changes to qualification pathways, experience cancelled qualification events, and have adapted their training on a continuous basis to ensure they could be as prepared as can be. The fear of a positive test has peppered their journey, and yet still, their steely focus has been commendable.

“There was a lot of competition to get on the team, and while the focus over the coming weeks will naturally be on the team, it is important to acknowledge the commitment and resilience shown by those athletes who missed out on qualification. I have no doubt that they too will have their opportunity to shine in the future.”

On qualifying for his third Winter Olympics, O’Connor said: “It’s an incredible honour to be heading into my third Olympic Games. I was the flagbearer for the last Games, and that was one of the most memorable moments in my life. I feel privileged to be able to compete in Beijing, and am really looking forward to getting to spending time with my teammates, and to what the next few weeks will bring!”

The Beijing Games is spread across three distinct villages and zones – Beijing, Yanqing (90km northwest of Beijing) and Zhangjiakou (220km northwest), with Irish interest in the latter two.

Among those to narrowly miss out on qualification was Brendan Doyle in the skeleton, who also just missed out in 2018, falling just short of the top-25 spots that would have secured his place.

Team Ireland

Tess Arbez (Alpine Skiing)

With roots in Carlow and Dublin, the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympian is set to compete in the Giant Slalom, Slalom and Super G events in Beijing. She was born in Vetraz, Monthoux in France, near the Swiss border, and currently studies biomedical studies in Geneva.

Tess Arbez is Ireland’s Alpine Ski representative. Photograph: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Tess Arbez is Ireland’s Alpine Ski representative. Photograph: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Jack Gower (Alpine Skiing)

Gower’s paternal grandmother was born in Dublin and settled in Skibbereen with UK-based Gower competing in his first Olympic Games. The former Junior World Champion for GB is set to compete in the Downhill, Giant Slalom, Super G and Alpine Combined events.

Thomas Maloney Westgaard (Cross Country Skiing)

Heading into his second Olympic Games, Westgaard is competing in the 15km, 30km and 50km events in Beijing. With a Galway mother and Norwegian father, he is a well-respected consistent athlete on the world circuit in Cross Country Skiing, training up to five hours or 58km in one session.

Brendan ‘Bubba’ Newby (Freestyle Skiing)

Cork born Brendan Newby is better known as Bubba. He competed in the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics, fulfilling a childhood dream he had since first watching the Olympics in Salt Lake City as a child. He will now be competing in Beijing as an even better skier, pulling his first ‘double’ in Austria in November.

Seamus O’Connor (Snowboard Halfpipe)

Beijing 2022 will see O’Connor become the first Team Ireland Winter Olympian to compete in three Games. He previously competed in both Sochi 2014, Pyeongchang 2018, and at 24 is already a veteran of the sport. His paternal grandparents are from Drogheda and Dublin, and he lives in Utah, USA.

Elsa Desmond (Luge)

The first time that Ireland will have a luge athlete in the Olympics, male or female, Desmond in fact setting up the Irish Luge Federation herself in order to compete for Ireland. The qualified medical doctor was targeting Milan 2026 primarily, and a strong showing in the latter part of the season helped secure her name in history. Her paternal grandmother is from Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, and her grandfather is from Cork.

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