Sailing: John Twomey in 11-time Olympics appearance bid

Veteran Irish Paralympian must first qualify in the Para World Sailing Championships

John Twomey competing on home waters last summer at the Sovereign’s Cup: he will attempt to qualify for Rio 2016 later this month in Melbourne. Photograph: David Branigan/Oceansport

John Twomey competing on home waters last summer at the Sovereign’s Cup: he will attempt to qualify for Rio 2016 later this month in Melbourne. Photograph: David Branigan/Oceansport

 

Veteran Irish Paralympian John Twomey is en route to Melbourne this month as he aims to make Rio 2016 his eleventh appearance at the Games.

But first, he and crew members Ian Costelloe and Austin O’Carroll must qualify Ireland in the Sonar class at the Para World Sailing Championships that begin at the end of this month.

The trio placed third at the ISAF Sailing World Cup event at Weymouth in June and are currently ranked fifth in the world. Twomey hails from Ballinhassig, in Cork, and won gold and bronze in the discus before switching to sailing for the Sydney Games in 2000.

Kerryman Costelloe is a London 2012 veteran where he placed 11th overall sailing with Twomey and Anthony Hegarty. An avid sportsman, he also plays Gaelic football and soccer. O’Carroll is a Dublin GP and is aiming for his first Paralympic appearance although he has sailed for the last 30 years.

Ironically, the Rio Games could be the last opportunity for all three to represent Ireland in sailing as the sport has been dropped from the line-up of events for 2020. A last minute reprieve to have a 23rd event included is still a possibility but for the moment the prospects are remote.

The decision to drop sailing followed a controversial period within the World Disabled Sailing Federation that Twomey led as president in the aftermath of the London Games when a disputed jury penalty was challenged at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The legal costs involved proved substantial and eventually saw the IFDS subsumed into the International Sailing Federation last year, around the time when final submissions were being made to the International Paralympic Committee.

Meanwhile, the southern hemisphere is also to the fore for other Irish Olympic ambitions in the lead-up to Rio 2016 next August. On Monday, Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey begin their main goal for the year in Argentina in the new women’s event featuring the 49erFX skiff class.

Sole contenders

The duo are competing for one of three nation places available that will qualify Ireland for a place in this event at the games.

As the sole contenders in the class, in effect it is their place at the games subject to a successful nomination to the Olympic Council of Ireland that enters the national team by the Irish Sailing Association.

The class is already hugely competitive and while Brewster and Tidey have had strong results earlier this year, the warm-up event at the South American Championships last week weren’t the indicator of form they might have hoped for as they placed 30th out of 43 boats though some single digit results did point to their potential.

Similarly, their counterparts in the men’s 49er class, Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern also had a mixed showing in Buenos Aires but placed well down the fleet in 45th overall out of 53 boats. However, the Belfast Lough pair have already secured qualification for Ireland at Rio.

Further up the coast next month, the selection trials in the men’s Laser and women’s laser Radial event get under way at the Olympic venue itself with veteran James Espey and Annalise Murphy facing strong challenges from up and coming younger sailors in both disciplines.

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