Thursday 19 April 2018

Winter Olympics: Griffin dream bites the dust after failure to make Irish team for Vancouver

Tom O'Riordan

The Irish team to compete at next month's Winter Olympics in Vancouver was named yesterday, but there was no place for rower-turned-cross country skier Paul Griffin.

The Killarney man's dream of joining a select group of athletes who have competed in both the Summer and Winter Games was dashed as 21-year-old PJ Barron, a Scot who declared for Ireland in 2008, got the nod.

While there was disappointment for the 30-year-old, it was all smiles for Barron, Shane O'Connor (alpine slalom), Kirsty McGarry (alpine slalom), Pat Shannon (skeleton bobsleigh) and Ireland's first women's bobsleigh team to participate in the Games, Aoife Hoey (sled pilot) and Claire Bergin (brakewoman).

Leona Byrne will travel as alternate brakewoman in the bobsleigh team, while former bobsleigh competitor Siobhan Hoey -- a sister of Aoife -- is the overall squad's chef de mission.

Several of the team have been noted track and field athletes in the past.

Aoife Hoey was a former Irish triple jump champion, while Bergin is a top-class sprinter who was part of the Irish 4x400m relay team that finished fourth in the European Indoor Championships in Turin last March.


Hoey (26) and Bergin(24) are convinced that their athletics career helped them to make the grade. "We both need speed and power for the start," said Hoey at yesterday's reception for the team at the Canadian Embassy.

"Claire has a huge responsibility at the top of the run as the brake athlete," said Hoey, whose athletics career has been brought to a premature end because of an injury to her knee.

"She really has to be explosively fast from the block. We both do the same training, with a lot of explosive weight lifting."

The Irish are already under a handicap, as they are the only crew of the 20 who have qualified for this event that have not been on the track in Vancouver.

"That makes it a bit more daunting, because we have heard that it's one of the fastest in the world," added Hoey. "Our ambition was to get there and now we just want to give it everything."

A third member of the team, Pat Shannon from New Ross, who will compete in the Skeleton Bobsleigh in Canada, has won 10 national indoor and outdoor long jump titles. Shannon will be attempting to match, or perhaps even better, the achievement of the British peer with an Irish passport, Clifton Wrottesley, who finished fourth for Ireland in Salt Lake City eight years ago.

Irish Independent

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