The Irish flag is raised and our Olympians are focused and ready for the 2018 Winter Olympics. The competition begins on Saturday with the Irish competitors hitting the slopes on Sunday. Team Ireland have secured five competitors for the highly-anticipated Winter Games, who will represent our country in Pyeongchang, South Korea from 9-25 February. Alpine Skiers Tess Arbez and Patrick McMillan, Cross Country Skier Thomas Westgard, Half Pipe Skier Bubba Newby and Snowboarder Seamus O’Connor were confirmed by the Olympic Council of Ireland on Monday 29th January to much of the nation's delight. Not bad for a country that has no natural ski terrain whatsoever, right?
Photo Credit: RTÉ
So Who’s Who?
Halfpipe snowboarder Seamus O’Connor is heading into his second games after appearing in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia making it to the semi-finals of both the men’s slopstyle and halfpipe competitions. The American born snowboarder from San Diego is eligible to compete for Ireland as both of his grandparents were born in Ireland. He was recently named as Team Ireland’s flag bearer for the games and will lead the team out on Friday, February 9th at the Parade of Nations during the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang.
26-year-old alpine skier, Patrick McMillan abandoned his professional rugby career (alongside Tadhg Furlong) after he decided to join the slopes and start ski racing (including Alpine combines, Super-G and Downhill disciplines) just six years ago at the age of 20. Currently living in Austria, he has represented Ireland at the 2015 and 2017 Alpine World Championships. Although he moved to Killaloe in Co. Clare at a young age, the native from Letterkenny is set to make history for being the first person from Donegal to compete in the Olympics.
Fellow alpine skier, Tess Arbez is no stranger to the dangerous slopes as she was born in Mont Blanc, France. The French-born athlete competed in the 2017 Alpine World Championships, reaching the final races in both Giant Slalom and Slalom events. At just 20 years old, she is competing in her first Olympics games, following in her father’s uncle’s footsteps, who represented France in the 1968 Winter Olympics, hosted in her home country in Grenoble.
Cross-country skier 21-year-old Thomas Westgard represented Ireland at the FIS Nordic World Championships in 2017 (one of the more demanding winter games sports) and will be rocking the Tricolours in South Korea. He was born on a small island, Leka, situated in Norway, to a Norwegian father and Irish mother from Dunmore, county Galway.
Halfpipe skier Brendan ‘Bubba’ Newby was born in Cork to American parents and currently lives and trains in Utah. The freestyle skier competes in the halfpipe discipline, performing (and showing off) his stunts and tricks mid-air. He finished in 25th place at the FIS World Championship in 2017 and couldn’t look more ‘Winter Olympian’ with his long blonde hair.
Just last week our Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, voiced his praise and admiration for Team Ireland:
“For Ireland to have five athletes taking part in the 2018 Winter Olympics is a great achievement. Competing in your chosen field at an Olympic Games is the ultimate goal for any athlete; getting this far is a personal triumph for each sportsperson. Tess, Patrick, Thomas, Bubba, and Seamus have shown great dedication, tenacity and a lot of talent to qualify for the Games and on behalf of all of us in Ireland, I wish them the very best of luck as they take on the world’s best snow sport athletes in PyeongChang in the coming weeks.”
Make sure to follow the official account for the Olympic Council of Ireland and the athletes personal accounts for more coverage and behind the scene footage of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games #TeamIreland
Live coverage, replays, highlights and commentary of the Olympics Winter Games 2018 will feature on seven SKY Sports channels from 9-25 February.
Highlights of the games will also be broadcasted nightly on RTÉ 2, hosted by Clare McNamara. You can also watch the live coverage of the opening ceremony on Saturday at 11am on RTÉ 2 also.