Irish team chief: 'Bobsleigh death track is too fast'
Team chief still worried over course her sister will race on
Published 15/02/2010 | 05:00
THE leader of Ireland's Winter Olympics team believes the ice track on which her sister will compete in the bobsleigh event is "simply too fast".
Speaking from Vancouver last night, chef de mission of the Irish team Siobhan Hoey said her sister Aoife and brakewoman Claire Bergin had reached a speed of 144kmh -- faster than they had ever gone before -- on the track in Whistler while training two weeks ago, and that was without putting in 100pc effort at the start.
But despite the high speeds, the Irish women still intend to take part in the event next week.
Georgian athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili (21) was killed after losing control of his luge in practise on the final turn of the track on Friday.
The track -- on which the bobsleigh events are also run -- was modified before it was reopened for competition on Saturday, less than 24 hours after the death of Mr Kumaritashvili, with the walls raised on some turns to make it less perilous.
"It's an incredibly sad situation," Ms Hoey, herself a former bobsleigh competitor, told the Irish Independent.
"I have raised concerns over this particular track in the past, and so have many athletes. It's too fast, that's the bottom line.
"The highest speed that Aoife had reached (previously) would have been in St Moritz in Switzerland. She surpassed that particular speed here. She said it was incredibly fast but she was happy. She said that it was a huge adrenalin rush."
Aoife Hoey and Ms Bergin reached a speed of 144kmh, she said, "and that was without 100pc effort at the top of the track, so it is only going to be faster".
However, Ms Hoey said that the two women did not have any particular concern despite Mr Kumaritashvili's tragic death.
"They would be respectful of any track, and they are particularly aware of potential difficulties that could arise here.
"But Aoife is happy with the way training went, she's confident. She's experienced enough too to know that anything can happen. We're delighted that the situation of last week has been put behind us so that the girls can have clear heads and focus on what they have to do on the track."
Last Friday, a Court of Arbitration for Sport panel dismissed an application from Brazil to replace the Irish team at the Games.
The application had requested that the Brazilian women's bobsleigh team be admitted in place of the Irish team, whose place had previously been put in jeopardy by a challenge from Australia earlier in the week.
The Australians had claimed they were entitled to an automatic spot in the event despite failing to qualify.
The Brazilian appeal was rejected, but the Australian team will compete in the event as the 21st team.
"It's a huge relief," Ms Hoey said. "I won't say it was a farcical situation, but it was a ridiculous situation when you have a team qualified and then all this comes into play.
"Aoife had amassed 488 points on the World Cup circuit and there's a challenge from an Australia team with 298 points. So it was incredibly stressful, but I suppose Australia had to try.
"But it's unfortunate that it has been painted in the Australian media as a head-to-head between Australia and Ireland because the challenge was against the International Bobsleigh and Tobogganing Federation."
The Irish team will compete in the event on February 23 and 24.