Wednesday 29 January 2020

Irish hopes remain modest for Sochi

Mention Ireland's modest record in the Winter Olympics and it is inevitable that the not- insignificant name of Clifton Hugh Lancelot de Verdon Wrottesley will come to the fore.

Wrottesley was the high-society extrovert who ate up column inches at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002 when he came agonisingly close to snatching his nation's first winter medal by finishing fourth in the men's skeleton.

While Wrottesley has moved on to become the current chairman of the acclaimed Great Britain skeleton programme, Ireland's own Winter Olympic ambitions have remained much more modest.

The Olympic Council of Ireland hope to send a team of up to five athletes to Sochi, hewn from a mixture of distant familial links and young athletes intent on pursuing their chosen disciplines a long way from home.

Nineteen-year-old Victoria Bell was awarded an Olympic Scholarship by the International Olympic Committee in 2012, ensuring she would receive significant financial assistance to facilitate her dream of reaching the Games.

Bell, who strapped on her first pair of skis at the age of two, spends much of her time in New Zealand and also managed to represent Ireland at the World Ski Championships in Schladming earlier this year.

Bell, who hopes to compete in both slalom and giant-slalom disciplines in Sochi, told Press Association Sport: "It's hard because we obviously don't have the facilities in Ireland or the team- mates, but a lot of the smaller nations tend to group together and pool our knowledge and support.

"Since I finished my GCSEs I've been able to concentrate on my skiing full-time thanks to my s cholarship, and I dream of qualifying and representing Ireland at the Winter Olympics.

"Obviously it is difficult being away from home for so long but I've loved skiing since I started when I was young, and I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't believe that I had the ability to get to the Games."

Bell is likely to be joined in Sochi by Conor Lyne, who also competed in Schladming, and precocious young snowboarder Seamus O'Connor, who was born and brought up in the United States but qualifies as his grandparents were both born in Ireland.

Cross-country skier Jan Rossiter, who is mostly based in Canada, is targeting Sochi while skeleton athlete Sean Greenwood has hopes of following in the footsteps of Wrottesley, whose exploits are likely to continue to define the Irish Winter Olympic experience for some time to come.

PA Media

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