Saturday, August 30, 2008

Paralympics: Dockery to Carry Flag


Just when you thought it was safe to forget the Olympics and Beijing, along comes the Paralympics - and the best prepared Irish team ever should give this nation plenty to be proud of over the next fortnight.
Making the team, which had a strict quota of places on offer, has taken a huge effort by all 45 members of the Irish teams. To be selected they have had to prove that they are world class and this they did.
Sprinter Jason Smith is second only to Paul Hession on the 100m rankings and third behind Hession and Brizzell for 200m. He burst on to the scene two years ago when he set world records on this way to winning both 100m and 200m at the World Paralympics Games in Essen, Germany.
Since then, he has got even faster and after running 10.53 for 100m and 21.47 for 200m this year, he is so fast that spectators find it hard to believe that he is partially sighted. "No I certainly can't drive," he tells us. "I see different colours and blurs rather than faces or bodies, but on the track I have no problems really because I can see the lines."
For his first Paralympics, training with his full-time coach Stephen Maguire has gone well. "I had a nerve problem at the top of my hamstring earlier on, but that's gone. I'm a lot stronger this year and a lot quicker when I'm racing."
Despite being tipped to take two medals, the mantle of favourite isn't bothering him. "I don't mind the pressure - I just run!"
Another young athlete tipped for gold is 18-year-old Michael McKillop from Glengormley, who won the 800m at the World Paralympic Championships in Assen at the age of only 16, setting a new world record on the way.
One of the best known names on the athletics team of just ten is Patrice Dockery, of Clonliffe Harriers, who will carry the flag for Ireland at Saturday's opening ceremony in the Bird's Nest Stadium.
Beijing will be a sixth Paralympics for the 37-year-old Dubliner. Her best performance came at the Sydney Games of 2000 when she finished sixth in the 5000m. In Athens four years ago, she was involved in a spectacular crash that received lots of publicity.
For Beijing she decided to go back to her sprinting roots and has qualified for the 100m, 200m and 400m in the T53 class. "I've been reclassified from T54 as at previous Games, which means I have a better chance of reaching a final at least. But it won't be easy."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Equestrian: B Samples Positive

EQUESTRIAN'S world governing body, the FEI, have confirmed that the B samples from the four cases (including Ireland’s ‘Lantinus’) at the 2008 Olympics involving the presence of the banned substance capsaicin in horses, have all yielded positive test results, so confirming the initial positive findings from the A samples.

The four cases are:
Bernardo Alves (Brazil); Chupa Chup
Christian Ahlmann (Germany); Coster
Denis Lynch (Ireland); Latinus
Tony Andre Hansen (Norway); Camiro

The process will now follow the Accelerated Medication Control Procedure during and after the 2008 Olympic Games which is part of the FEI Regulations for Equestrian events at the 2008 Games (Annex G),available on the FEI Olympic website.

Evidence and written submissions have been requested from each rider,and a three-member panel of the FEI Tribunal has been appointed.Hearings will be held on 5, 6 and 7th September in Lausanne,Switzerland.

Horse Sport Ireland tonight confirmed that they had been informed by Denis Lynch that he would be taking up his right to a hearing and that he intended to make himself available on any of the dates proposed by the FEI.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Women's Soccer: O'Riordan Helps Chinese Team


Found this on NBC News; have edited it a bit and added extra info:

Ballyfermot man Don O'Riordan is not very hard to find. Show up at the Chinese Olympic women soccer team's training, and his pale skin and Western features make him easy to spot - and then his Irish accent just sharpens the contrast.

As initially startling as his presence may be, it helped China to a place in the quarter-finals, where they lost 1-2 to Japan.

Having retired as a player after 25 years in England and the United States, the 51-year-old Irishman is on Olympic duty with China, which has been his home for about four years.

"It's an opportunity I never expected," said O'Riordan, who's only been with the team for about a month. "It's an opportunity that doesn't come along too often. It's an honor to be asked."

O'Riordan is a technical adviser to the Chinese women's team, a sideline from his regular job as technical director for the Chengdu Blades of the Chinese Super League.

He landed in China as a member of English League Championship - or second division - team Sheffield United (a club he joined after three years as Sligo Rovers manager 2001-4; he was also associated with Galway United)). In 2006, club chairman Kevin McCabe bought the Chengdu Five Bulls, which adopted the English side's nickname, and with O'Riordan already in the country to help run a development academy associated with Sheffield United since 2004, asked him to help the team's latest acquisition a year later.

With O'Riordan responsible for soccer operations, Chengdu won promotion to the first division and its rapid improvement earned him wide recognition in Chinese soccer.

China's national soccer association sought his advice for the women's team and with the addition of another Westerner, fitness coach Mark Laws, have made some noticeable improvements in the squad.

As technical adviser, O'Riordan sits in the stands, watches the matches and discusses strategy and tactics with coach Shang Ruihua.

"Sitting on the bench, you don't see the space," he said. "It's an eye-in-the-sky thing. If need be, I call and make a suggestion."

Shang runs the session, but O'Riordan adds guidance and technical advice. A constant companion is team translator Patrick Li, a native Chinese who lived in England for a year. Communication isn't a problem, O'Riordan says, who knows a few Chinese "words and phrases."

O'Riordan, who signed with Derby County in 1972 at age 15 and whose career also included two years with the Tulsa Roughnecks of the old North American Soccer League, has been welcomed by Shang and his players.

"Coach Shang is one of the nicest men I've ever met," O'Riordan said. "Most Chinese don't want to 'lose face' by letting in a foreign coach. It's big of him to bring in a foreign coach, especially so late, and allow me to make changes."

HOW THEY ALL DID: A Summary of Irish Results

BADMINTON
Scott Evans, r1 lost to Marc Zweibler (Ger) 18-21, 21-18, 19-21.
Chloe Magee, r1, bt Kati Tolmoff (Est) 18-21, 21-18, 21-19; r2 lost to Jaeyou Jun (Kor) 12-21, 14-21.

BOXING
John Joe Nevin, bantam, r1 bt Abdelhaum Ourradi (Alg) 9-4; r2 lost to Badal Uugar Enkbhat (Mon) 2-9
Paddy Barnes, lt fly, bye, r2 bt Jose Luis Meza (Ecu)14-8; qf bt Lukasz Maszczyk (Pol) 11-5; sf lost to Shiming Zou (Chn) 0-16; bronze.
John Joe Joyce, lt wlt, r1 bt Gyula Kate (Hun) 9-5; r2 lost to Felix Diaz 11-11(ref's dec).
Darren Sutherland, mdlwt, bye, r2 bt Nabil Kassel (Alg)21-14 (rsc); qf bt Alfonso Blanco Parra (Ven) 11-1; sf lost to James DeGale (Gbr)3-10; bronze.
Kenneth Egan, lt hvy rd 1 (rd of 32) bt Julius Jackson (Isv) 22-1; r2 bt Bahram Muzaffer (Tur) 10-2; qf bt Washington Silva (Bra) 8-0; sf bt Tony Jeffries (Gbr) 10-3; final, lost to Xiaoping Zhang (Chn), 7-11; silver.

CANOEING
Eoin Rheinisch K1; qual - 1st run 18th, 88.52; 2nd run 87.81 (total 176.33); 15th. Sf 10th 88.85; final 4th 88.06 (176.91 total).

CYCLING
David O'Loughlin, 4000m individual pursuit, qual rd, 11th, 4:26.102.
Road race - Nicolas Roche, 64th, 6:34.26; Philip Deignan 81st 6:39.42
Robin Seymour, mountain biking, dnf.
Also:
Wendy Houvenaghel (GBR) 3000m individual pursuit, qual rd, 1st, 3:38.443; r1h4, bt Lada Kozilkara (Cze) 3:27.829; final, 2nd, 3:30.395; silver.

EQUESTRIAN
Three-Day Eventing
Capt Geoff Curran; Kilkishen
Niall Griffin; Lorgaine
Louise Lyons; Watership Down
Austin O'Connor; Hobby Du Mee
Patricia Ryan; Fernhill Clover Mist;
8th, 276.10.

Reserve:
Sacha Pemble; Hyanie d'Aubrie and I've Been Dun

Show-jumping
Denis Lynch, Lantinus, qual r1, eq 13th, 1 ft; qual r2, eq 4th, 1 ft; dsq (doping offence)
Reserve:
Cian O'Connor, Complete

FENCING
Siobhan Byrne, sabre, r1, lost to Irena Wieczowska (Pol) 8-15

ROWING
Men's heavyweight four (Sean O'Neill, Jonno Devlin, Sean Casey, Cormac Folan), r1h3, 3rd, 6:02.85, sf1, 6th 5:58.14; B final, 4th 6:07.97; 10th overall.
Men's lightweight four (Paul Griffin, Richard Archibald, Gearóid Towey, Colin Moynihan, res Richard Coakley) r1h3 4th, 5:52.32; rep 1 1st 6:21.79; sf2, 4th, 6:13.85; B final (Coakley in for Towey) 4th 6:06.02; 10th overall.
Also:
Richard Chambers (GBR) h1, 2nd 5:52.38; sf2, 3rd 6:08.75; final 5th, 5:52.12.
Alan Campbell, single sculls (GBR) r1h5, 1st 7:14.98; qf1 2nd 6:52.74; sf2, 2nd 7:05.24; final 5th, 7:04.47.

SAILING
Tim Goodbody, Finn, (22nd), 13th,15th,15th,17th,16th,21st,15th; 21st.
Gerald Owens/Phil Lawton, 470; 22nd, 1st, 17th, 15th, 1st,(25th), 21st, 15th, 13th, 24th; 16th
Ciara Peelo, women's Laser Radial, 23rd, 17th, 15th, 7th, 13th, 24th, (25th)18th, 10th; 20th.
Peter O'Leary/Stephen Milne, Star, 6th, 12th, 7th, 10th, 12th, (13th), 13th, 8th, 11th, 12th; 13th .

SHOOTING (Clay Targets)
Derek Burnett, Olympic trap, 29th, 110x125

SWIMMING
Andrew Bree, 100m breaststroke, r1ht5, 2nd, 1:01.76; 30th overall. 200m breaststroke r1h4, 1st, 2:10.9; sf1, 5th, 2:10.16; 12th oa. 200m im, dns.
Melanie Nocher, 200m fs, r1h2, 7th, 2:04.29; 43rd oa. 200m backstroke r1ht2, 1st 2:12.29 (IR); 20th.
Aisling Cooney, 100m backstroke, r1h7, 7th 1:02.50; 31st.

TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETICS
MEN -
Paul Hession, 200m, r1h6, 3rd, 20.59; r2h4, 1st 20.32, sf1, 5th, 20.38; 10th overall.
David Gillick 400m,r1h7, 4th, 45.83; 29th overall.
Thomas Chamney, 800m, r1h1, 5th, 1:47.66; 35th overall.
Alistair Cragg 1500m, r1h2 8th, 3:44.90; 39th overall. 5000m, r1h1, 6th 13:38.57; final dnf.
Martin Fagan marathon, dnf
Robert Heffernan 20k walk, 8th, 1:20.36
Jamie Costin 50k walk, 44th, 4:15.16.
Colin Griffin 50k walk,dsq.
WOMEN -
Michelle Carey, 400m hurdles, r1h2, 7th, 57.99; 25th overall.
Joanne Cuddihy 400m, r1h4, 6th, 53.32; 39th overall.
Derval O'Rourke 100m hurdles, r1h1, 6th, 13.22; 28th overall.
Roisin McGettigan steeplechase, ht 2, 2nd, 9:28.92 (SB); final, 14th, 9:55.85.
Fionnuala Britton steeplechase, ht 1, 10th, 9:43.57 (SB); 27th overall.
Eileen O'Keeffe hammer, gp B, 10th (62.53, 62.05, 67.66); 23rd overall.
Olive Loughnane 20k walk, 7th, 1:27.45.
Pauline Curley, marathon, 63rd, 2:47.16

TRIATHLON
Emma Davis, 37th, 2:06.28.

Monday, August 25, 2008

And the point is?

"Like Olympic medals and tennis trophies, all they signified was that the owner had done something of no benefit to anyone more capably than everyone else."
- “Catch-22″, Joseph Heller

Wiser heads than me are wondering when medals became the primary reason for anyone to get involved in sport. The sight of the jumbo jet containing the "most successful Olympic team in 100 years" flying into Heathrow and filmed live in a mood of hysterical excitement by the BBC has left me feeling queasy. It's not too far a leap to the Nurembourg rally, as no less than Billy Connolly has pointed out.
Here's part of an excellent article from James Lawton in today's Indo:

By James Lawton

Tuesday August 26 2008

Arsenal's French manager Arsene Wenger is not xenophobic -- he has proved that in his long years irrigating English football with the finest skill -- but he was maybe the most damning witness of all amid the fanfare which greeted Great Britain's medal haul in Beijing.

"I have been watching the Olympics. The British success is amazing because you have no structure here," he said.

"In France, every village has sports facilities provided for the public. Here there is hardly anything. Where do they all go to train? In Paris there are 50 competitive swimming pools and in London two, and yet you got the Olympics."

It is something that behind every British triumph shines like a beacon.

The wretched truth behind Britain's extraordinary showing at the 29th Olympics, bettered only by China, the United States and Russia, was that it said everything about the potential of a nation's sportsmen and women to compete against the best in the world when provided with proper support -- and absolutely nothing about the interest of successive governments in sport as anything other than an occasional boost to their fading popularity.

When London mayor Boris Johnson took the flag and promised the world's sport would be given an appropriately brilliant welcome when it came to the 30th Olympics in London in four years' time, he was participating in a lie. The lie is that Britain won the right to host the next Olympics because it was committed to investing in youth and not because of brilliant campaigning by Olympic icon Sebastian Coe and the clumsy, arrogant politics of the far superior candidate, Paris.

As well as athletic achievement, there was also the not inconsiderable matter of £265m prised out of UK Lottery profits to help the athletes -- but did that kind of largesse ever materialise before the juicy prestige of an Olympic hosting triumph came into sight -- or the national humiliation of 1996, when one gold was gleaned, which was two less than Kazakhstan?

London has the next Games and is promising a different kind of glory to that which came in Beijing -- something splendid in its own right -- but maybe they should still apply a little caution.

That certainly was the advice of the Olympic heavyweight champion Audley Harrison in Sydney eight years ago when the British team ran far ahead of expectations with 11 gold medals, 10 silver and seven bronze.

"It's all very well getting carried away with the fact that some investment in a few elite athletes has brought success," Harrison said, "but what people should remember is that there has to be a wider base for the development of young people in sport. The fact is we just don't have a sports infrastructure in Britain. We have improved here in Sydney but that is because the most talented have at last been given some real support.

However, there are so many other young people who could develop if they were given the right facilities."

Young Olympians Look To London 2012


Among the younger members of the Irish team in Beijing was 22-year-old triathlete Emma Davis. Like badminton players Scott Evans (20) and Chloe Magee (19), sailors Stephen Milne and Peter O'Leary (both 22), boxers John Joe Nevin and John Joe Joyce and Paddy Barnes (20-ish), athlete Thomas Chamney (24), fencer Siobhan Byrne (24) and swimmers Aisling Cooney and Melanie Nocher (also 20-ish), Davis will be one to watch in London 2012. The future of Irish Olympic sport isn't entirely gloomy!

Here is what Emma had to say about her Olympic experience:
'Today is my last full day out here in the Olympic Village. I fly back tomorrow morning to Dublin with the rest of the Irish team. I have had a wonderful time, met lots of amazing people and learned a great deal.

"The training camp in Matsue, Japan went very well. The facilities were great and Richard and I got a good block of training in. I headed over to Beijing knowing I could have done no more to prepare myself.

"A few days before we flew I crashed my bike and damaged two of the joints in my back, this affected my glute and although the physios worked hard to fix it there was not enough time and the best I could do was to put it out of my head. Luckily during my bike warm up it didn't flare up so I was happy enough on the start line.

"On race day, August 18, I was understandably pretty nervous. The race venue is an hour's coach journey away from the village and the only coach left at 7am. I like to have a stretch and run in the morning before breakfast on race day so I woke early at 5.30am and got on with my pre- race routine.

"The coach journey was a bit of a hassle but I put some ear plugs in and settled down to sleep for a while. When we arrived at the venue everything ran the same as at a world cup but 15 minutes earlier. We lined up as usual in race number order and were called out onto the pontoon. When the gun went I was pleased and anxious to get going. Initially the swim went well and I was leading for about the first 300m then things started to go downhill. I am not sure why, as training had gone really well.
"I ploughed on and exited the swim with a couple of girls just off the main pack. My transition didn't go well; the racks were not the usual ones we use in World Cups and my back wheel got stuck. I lost valuable seconds and as a result missed the pack.

"On the bike I worked hard and managed to catch quite a few of the girls in front. My back and glute was a problem but since there was nothing I could do about it, I just got on with the race and ignored it as best I could. Onto the run I had a good transition and lead my pack out. About 1500m per lap of the run was on blue matting, and under the matting was a temporary metal platform. This reflected the heat and a thermometer read 47 degrees! I felt pretty bad on the run after working hard on the hilly bike course – as I'm sure did everyone else.

"After the race lots of athletes were being stretchered off and 20% of the field didn't finish. I finished five places above my ranking - not a bad result for my first year as a full-time athlete.
I am taking a little break now. I have pushed it hard this year and picked up a few injuries and now is a good time to get over them.

"I did the best job I could and will be back in 4 years time fitter and ready for another shot."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Athletics: What Next?

By contrast with the boxers, Irish athletics performances at these Games - with a few notable exceptions - has been truly depressing.
With respect to the Beijing team manager Patsy McGonagle, who is a good man, we suspect that elite Irish athletics is in terminal decline. A major factor is the deep stench hanging over the sport which began with Ben Johnson and hasn't gone away.
Virtually every major sprinter of the past two decades has been stripped of his or her credibility sooner or later. Systematic, out-of-season testing does pay dividends however, which is one reason why the American sprinters weren't quite as dominant (we suspect) this Games; jailing Marion Jones sent out a clear and unequivocal signal.
But cautious though we must be about slandering the innocent, we have to question - like anyone else with a brain - the dominance of groups of athletes from parts of the world where dope testing quite simply doesn't happen. And it's not just the Caribbean we are talking about.
Catching seven Russian athletes before the Games and a bald statement that systematic doping is part of the Russian system did nothing to reassure when watching a new world record in the women's steeplechase for instance. And why do no Africans - ever - get caught?
Against this background, Alistair Cragg is quite right to say that athletics has changed beyond imagining since the days when Coghlan, Treacy, Flynn, O'Mara and Marcus O'Sullivan represented Ireland with distinction on the tracks of the world. With the arrival of increasing numbers of African women, it has changed even since Sonia O'Sullivan's silver in Sydney.
Distance runners these days see no point in thrashing themselves running 100 and more miles a week. Because of the African domination, they still won't get anywhere, so why not enjoy themselves on the domestic circuit and have a life?
As for sprinters - Paul Hession is as good as we are going to get. That's pretty good by the way - we really could have a useful 4x400 team, and if someone had made sure our lads had travelled to the right competitions last year, we might even have had such a team in Beijing.
Is there a way back for athletics? We will always have the odd good performance - such as Eileen O'Keeffe at the World Championships last year - but that is as good as we can expect. Luck plays a part - Derval O'Rourke, David Gillick and Alistair Cragg ran brilliantly in 2006, but not this time. Joanne Cuddidy was injured; so was O'Keeffe; nothing more sinister than bad luck. Bad luck also afflicted Craig Mottram, Philips Idowu, Kelly Sotherton and countless others in Beijing. It's the way it goes. Still, how depressing it was to see both Cragg and Fagan not even finishing their races in the final weekend of the Games. Morale clearly was not high in the Irish camp.
Coming up with a prescription for the future isn't easy. Not reassuring is the job description for the job of High Performance Director which AAI currently has on their website, which is depressingly full of words like "pathways", "vision", ' best practise" "feedback loops"etc. Here's just one choice sentence from the job spec: "Creation of best practise integrated coaching pathways". Such waffle makes you wonder if they have any real idea of what they're looking for.
Boxing had Gary Keegan to organise the athletes and a Billy Walsh to coach them - plain talking, intelligent men, who above all are superb communicators. They kept it simple and it worked. Is there anyone in Irish athletics to match them?
We can think of one. Jamie Costin is already the athlete's rep on the AAI council. He'd be worth a call.

Boxing: Kenny Our Hero


So Kenny didn't take the gold - that doesn't take away from the arrival on the Irish sporting scene of a sportsman of pure class, an example not just to other boxers but to us all.
From the start of his fight with Xiang, we had the feeling that, like with Sutherland in the semi-finals, this was going to be one fight too far. We were right. On the day, the best boxer won, whatever anyone may say about hits not registering and the bias of the judges.
Kenny knew it himself- and, if anything, his impeccable behaviour and sportsmanship (and that of Xiang) after the fight only enhanced his stature. These two gentlemen proved superb ambassadors for their sport.
So did the RTE panel - Mick Dowling, Micheal Carruth, Andy Lee and Bernard Dunne spoke a language (it's called plain English) we don't hear very often in these days of MBA-speak. How refreshing to be reminded that sport commentary doesn't need to be mind-numbingly inane or queasily self-serving.
Then there was Jimmy Magee - what can we say? Aged 75 and still oozing boyish enthusiasm, along with those priceless turns of phrase. Long may you flourish, Jimbo!
By any standard, the Famous Five were the outstanding Irish success story of these Games. All five lost only to gold medal winners, two won bronze and one silver. Not only did they walk the walk but they talked the talk, coming across as a bunch of bright an articulate lads - unlike some of the trash-taking English.
About the only bad news is that high performance director Gary Keegan is about to set off for the Institute of Sport, which is already bearing all the marks of a white elephant on the scale of the National Consumer Agency.
Maybe he will learn to cope with the mountains of paper work, the snail-slow progress, the politics and the aforementioned MBA-speak ("pathways", "best practice", "going forward"), but we suspect he'll very quickly lose patience.
Stick with the boxing Gary - it could get even better.

Friday, August 22, 2008

* IRISH TEAM IN ACTION: Days 15 & 16

Irish in Action (all times Irish)

Saturday August 23:


Cycling
08.00 Mountain Bike - Men's Cross Country Robin Seymour, dnf

Athletics
13.10 Men's 5000m Final Alistair Cragg, dnf

Sunday August 24:

Athletics
00.30 Men's Marathon Martin Fagan, dnf

Boxing
08.50 Light-heavyweight final Kenny Egan lost to Xiaoping Zhang (Chn), 7-11; SILVER MEDAL.

Boxing: Egan Goes for Gold



As early as 30 seconds into the first round, you sensed that Kenny Egan, competing in the light heavyweight semi-finals of the Olympic Games, was going to do it.
His rival Tony Jeffries (Gbr) already looked uncomfortable. As the fight went on, it was clear that he had no answer to the Neilstown man’s clinical execution of uppercuts and punches, which ensued that the points mounted up in his favour.
In the third round, trailing 1-7, Jeffries made a desperate effort to hustle Egan and this didn’t work.
“He’s boxing out of his socks and that wouldn’t be hard because he’s wearing very small socks!” shouted an excited Jimmy Magee as Egan continued to dominate.
In the end it was 10-3 and a magnificent victory for Egan, who has scored 44 points and had only seven against him in 32 minutes of boxing during this tournament.
He now has at least a silver medal and will fight Xiaoping Zhang of China in Sunday’s Final (9.50am our time) for the Olympic title.
Quote of the Day: “The matador will always beat the bull – and Kenny’s the matador.” Ger Fleming, Neilstown Boxing Club.

Boxing: Sutherland, Barnes Go Out


Right from the start of this middleweight semi-final, it didn't look good. Our man was hunching down, while James DeGale (GBR) danced around the ring, dictating the rhythm and flow of the match.
DeGale was 2-1 up at the end of the second round, but looked better than that. In the third, he picked off Sutherland for another six points. It was over, even with another round to go. Final score 10-3.
Sutherland was gracious in defeat and he will still come home with a bronze medal. You get the feeling it was one match too far - Sutherland did his best work in the match against Blanco, and returning to that level would have been difficult (whatever Billy Walsh may say).

Against China's Shiming Zou in the semi-finals of the light flyweight class, Paddy Barnes was always going to struggle, but the scoreline of 0-15 does not do justice to his efforts.
Shiming, the world amateur champion of 2005 and 2007, scored the first point in an energetic opening round. By the end of the third, Barnes was 0-8 down but never stopped trying to find his way through the long arms of the Chinese fighter. He deserved more from the judges.

Athletics: Costin 44th, Griffin Disqualified in 50k Walk


Jamie Costin finished an honourable 44th in the men’s 50k with a time of 4:15.16. Four years ago, Costin didn’t even make the start after a serious car accident while training. It took years of rehabilitation before he could even walk normally again.
At the finish, Costin required medical attention after his efforts. Of the 59 starters, seven dropped out while a further five were disqualified including Colin Griffin. He was lying 37th, not far ahead of Cosin, after 15km, when he was pulled out.
Winner of the race was Alex Schwazer (Ita) who set a new Olympic record of 3:37.09. Of the top 16, exactly half improved their personal best times, despite conditions that started cool enough at 19 degrees but got steadily hotter and more humid and had even spectators diving for cover.
“It has been a tough and winding road for me to get here,” Costin told Frank Greally of the Irish Runner magazine. “I know my placing is not good enough, but it was really important for me to finish this Olympic event. “I was really tired at 38 kilometres and the final twelve kilometres were very tough.”
“No matter what happened out there, I knew that I had to finish the course,” Costin said. “My family are here and it has been eight years since I last competed in an Olympic Games, so I wanted to make the best of my chance here in Beijing.”

Equestrian: What a Dope


Much as we would love it to be otherwise, it doesn’t look good for Denis Lynch.
An Irish Times reader points out the following:
From the FEI list of prohibited substances:
PROHIBITED SUBSTANCES (MEDICATION CLASS A) Agents which could influence performance by relieving pain, sedating, stimulating or producing/modifying other physiological or behavioural effects, including: local anaesthetics;....
From the site of Equi-Block's main distributors "The Original Equi-Block, Equi-Block DT Formula and Super Strength Equi-Tite Liniment are the absolute best Topical Pain Relievers on the market. These products are specifically formulated to provide unparalleled results in the field of equine topical pain relief while providing the greatest amount of pain reduction possible.” So it's dodgy to start with.
And what about the packaging: "Contains capsaicin, will not test positive". In other words, it may well be illegal, but it won’t show up in a test. Many borderline body-building products advertised themselves in similar fashion before one too many positive tests.
Finally, if the testing has become more rigorous, why did no-one tell Denis?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Boxing: Irish Medals


1952
John McNally, btm, silver
1956
Tony "Socks" Byrne, lt, bronze
Johnny Caldwell, fly, bronze
Freddie Gilroy btm, bronze,
Fred Tiedt, wlt, silver (and he was robbed)
1964
Jim McCourt, btm, bronze
1980
Hugh Russell, fly, bronze
1992
Michael Carruth, lt wlt, GOLD
Wayne McCullough, btm, silver
2008
Paddy Barnes, lt fly, bronze
Kenny Egan, ly hvy, silver
Darren Sutherland, mdl, bronze

Not forgetting:
1924 - Patrick Dwyer, wlt, who was too exhausted to box off for bronze in the days when you had to do that.
1928 - Edward Traynor, btm, who lost the box-off for bronze.

* IRISH TEAM IN ACTION: Day 14

Irish in Action Friday August 22
(all times Irish)

Athletics
00.30 - Men's 50km Walk, Jamie Costin 44th, 4:15.16; Colin Griffin disq.

Boxing
08.00 - Middleweight semi-finals, Darren Sutherland (Ire) lost to James DeGale (Gbr) 3-10
12.00 - Lt Flyweight semi-finals, Paddy Barnes (Ire) lost to Shiming Zou (Chn), 0-16
14.00 - Lt Heavyweight semi-finals, Kenny Egan (Ire) bt Tony Jeffries (Gbr) 10-3

Equestrian: Lynch Used a Type of 'Deep Heat'

HORSE Sport Ireland (HSI) was informed by the world equestrian
governing body, the FEI, at 2.15 pm Hong Kong time today (Thursday),
that Irish Olympic rider Denis Lynch's horse 'Lantinus' had tested
positive for a banned substance and that as a result he would be
suspended from taking part in tonight's show jumping final.

Denis Lynch and Horse Sport Ireland officials attended a preliminary
hearing with the FEI a short time ago and were informed that the
substance found in the horse was called capsaicin.

At the tribunal the FEI indicated that this substance was an
ingredient in some products in regular use. Subsequently it was
identified by Denis Lynch as an ingredient in a product called
"Equi-block" used by him on his horse. Equi-block is a product used in
similar circumstances to 'Deep Heat' used on humans and Denis Lynch
explained to the tribunal that he commonly applies Equiblock to the
horse's lower back prior to exercise.

Following this preliminary hearing today the FEI informed Denis Lynch
that he remained suspended for tonight's competition.

The FEI have subsequently confirmed that three other riders due to
jump in tonight's final at Hong Kong have also been suspended as a
result of the same substance being found in their horses.

Horse Sport Ireland has confirmed that they submitted a urine sample
from the horse to a voluntary screening testing process made available
by the FEI on the horse's arrival in Hong Kong and the results of this
test were negative.

The horse has also been tested on numerous occasions, including
following many of its recent victories, and has tested negative on all
these occasions.

Athletics: Loughnane 7th


Some good news this morning with Olive Loughnane finishing seventh in the women's 20k walk with a personal best time of 1:27.45 - just 20 seconds off Gillian O'Sullivan's Irish record.
That put her exactly 33 seconds behind the bronze medal winner in a race won by Russia's Olga Kaniskina in 1:26.31. In driving rain (she must have felt right at home), Loughnane got a warning early on, but held her composure to finish strongly.
It means the Irish athletics team has reached its target of making four finals - Roisin McGettigan in the steeplechase, Alistair Cragg in the 5000m and Rob Heffernan, as well as Loughnane, in the 20k walks.

Top 8 finishes by Irish Track and Field Athletes since 1924
1928 – Pat O’Callaghan – Hammer – 1st
1932 – Pat O’Callaghan – Hammer – 1st
1932 – Bob Tisdall – 400m Hurdles – 1st
1932 – Eamon Fitzgerald – Triple Jump – 4th
1956 – Ronnie Delany – 1500m – 1st
1960 – John Lawlor – Hammer – 4th
1976 – Eamonn Coghlan – 1500m – 4th
1980 – Eamonn Coghlan – 5000m – 4th
1980 – John Treacy – 5000m – 7th
1984 – John Treacy – Marathon – 2nd
1984 – Caroline O’Shea – 800m – 8th
1988 – Marcus O’Sullivan – 1500m – 8th
1992 – Sonia O’Sullivan – 3000m – 4th
1992 – Jimmy McDonald – 20k Walk – 6th
2000 – Sonia O’Sullivan – 5000m – 2nd
2000 – Sonia O’Sullivan – 10,000m – 6th
2008 – Robbie Heffernan – 20k Walk – 8th
2008 – Olive Loughnane – 20k Walk – 7th

Showjumping: Lynch Out for Doping

Denis Lynch's horse Latinus is one of four horses sensationally banned from competing in today's Olympic showjumping competition for doping, the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) has announced.

Three other horses - from Brazil, Germany, and Norway - have also been suspended after testing positive for a prohibited substance. In its statement, the FEI said the four horses had been 'provisionally' suspended by the FEI further to doping/medication control tests that indicated the present of capsaicin in each horse.
Capsaicin is prohibited because of its hyper sensitising properties, and is also a 'medication class A' prohibited substance for its pain relieving properties.

The stunning news, which broke just hours before the individual showjumping contest, is not good news for the sport.

In Athens 2004, Cian O'Connor's individual showjumping gold medal with teh horse Waterford Crystal was later stripped from him for drug offences, while a doping scandal cost Germany the team jumping gold after the horse ridden by Ludger Beerbaum, a key member of the German team in Beijing, was disqualified after testing positive.
World No 1, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, was left off the German team for Athens after her horse tested positive, though she was later cleared.

Doping: The Odds of Getting Caught

From Wednesday's Guardian

Being caught committing a drugs offence here in Beijing is an 825–1 shot. Odds like those surprise even the International Olympic Committee.

The head of its medical commission, Professor Arne Ljungqvist, said a week ago that the three positive tests from 2,203 returned at that time was a "quite low" figure because "usually we have dozens". Since then the number of doping controls conducted has almost doubled to 4,133 but there have still only been two more positive tests. With the athletes at these Olympics going stronger, higher, faster across the board, should we be suspicious?

Victor Conte certainly thinks so. The man who, as the founder of Balco, was the architect of the biggest athletics drugs scam in history — or at least the biggest ever to be exposed — said on Monday that he believes the anti-doping culture of some National Olympic Committees and teams leaves much to be desired.

"When [race] times begin falling like rain, questions arise, especially when the record-setters are from countries such as Jamaica and other Caribbean nations where there is no independent anti-doping federation," he wrote in a letter to the New York Daily News.

Some teams definitely have form. The entire weightlifting team of Greece was banned from these Olympics after 11 of its 14 members tested positive for steroids in March.

So even at odds of 825–1 we should not perhaps be too taken aback that the biggest name to have been caught doping is Fani Halkia, winner of the 400m hurdles for Greece in Athens. The former Olympic champion's story fits Conte's description well: having come back from retirement to lower her personal best by 1.22sec in the 2004 semi-finals, she won gold by a half-second margin. The IOC has now engaged lawyers to prosecute her coach, George Panagiotopoulos, another of whose athletes has also recently tested positive for steroids.

The strangest thing is that three of Beijing's four other drugs cheats did not test positive for an even vaguely sophisticated substance. A North Korean double medallist in shooting used beta-blockers; a Vietnamese gymnast had taken medication used to control PMT; and the cyclist María Isabel Moreno flew home to Spain as soon as she had provided her specimen, knowing how soon the IOC would turn up the EPO in her system. It seems an almost contemptuous lack of competence in the field of sporting deception.

It is not yet known for what Lyudmila Blonska, the latest to fall foul of the procedures, has been caught. But these Games' heptathlon silver medallist is a repeat offender who served a two-year ban for using the proscribed steroid stanozolol in 2003. Her silver-medal performance at the world championships last year aroused the suspicions of Kelly Sotherton — the Briton had finished third behind Blonska.

The IOC, though, points to its low hit rate with a cheerful smile. "I think quite many recent events have shown that we are rather on the heels of those who try to cheat," said Ljungqvist last week. Ljungqvist's organisation obviously has the most to lose with every positive test, and others might say the evidence suggests that the cheats are staying one step ahead of the system. Quite apart from the incompetence of the officials conducting the procedures — the bruises on Chris Hoy's arms as he won his third gold medal on Tuesday show how unfamiliar they are with the cartography of veins — observers have a right to wonder why there have been no positives for the latest designer drug, slow-release EPO.

The IOC says it is employing a reliable test for the third-generation version of the drug after its detection was trialled at this year's Tour de France. But here is another statistic: the 2008 Tour also threw up five positive tests, a race in which there were fewer than 200 riders as against more than 10,000 athletes in the Olympic village. Does that add up?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

funny olympics


Havta have a laugh occasionally!

* IRISH TEAM IN ACTION: Day 13

Thursday August 21st
(all times Irish)

Athletics
12.00 -Women's 20km Walk, Olive Loughnane, 7th, 1:27.45.

Equestrian
12.15 -Individual Show Jumping Final, Denis Lynch and Lantinus, dsq, doping charge.

Athletics: Cragg Through


Alistair Cragg finished a fighting sixth in the first heat of the men's 5000m, but his time of 13:38.57 was sixth fastest overall and enough to see him comfortably through to the final. The humid conditions obviously took their toll on all the runners, with Cragg's time faster than the winning time in two other heats.
In the men's 800m, Thomas Chamney was extremely unlucky not to make the next round after finishing fifth in the first of eight heats with a time of 1:47.88. Just two from each heat along with eight fastest losers went through.
A few athletics facts from these Games: of the 204 nations competing in Beijing, 201 have at least one athlete competing (53 African nations are competing, along with 49 European, 42 from the Americas, 42 from Asia and 15 from Oceania) . Only 104 countries competed in the swimming. The most popular event on the track and field calendar is the 100m, with 165 entries; by comparison, the entire sport of beach volleyball has 96.
It took Carl Lewis FOUR Olympiads to win his eight medals; Phelps could do it in one.

Boxing: Sutherland Nails a Third Bronze


With Darren Sutherland's clever demolition of Alfonso Blanco Parra of Venezuela , the Irish Olympic boxing dream continues in spectacular fashion.
Last year, Sutherland was taken apart 20-13 by Blanco on his way to a silver medal at the World Championships in Chicago.
It proved turning point for the Dubliner, who decided to "go back to the drawing board" and start fighting his own way again. This time, he encouraged Blanco to come at him, absorbing the blows and tiring him out. By the end of the second round, when he was trailing 6-1, it was clear that the Venezuelan had no idea how to get through the Sutherland defence.
Weirdly, he was dropping his own defence and dancing around like Muhammed Ali in his prime - a very dangerous thing to do against a fighter like Sutherland. In the end, our boy won 11-1, his left hook proving particularly lethal.
"I didn't want to be left behind. I won a medal too" he said to his corner through his green mouthguard after the fans had counted down the final five seconds.
He will now fight his old rival James DeGale of England in Friday's semi-final (8am our time). There is no love lost between the pair - Sutherland has won four of their five matches, but that single loss came last December in the Olympic qualifier. Amazingly, Egan is also down to fight an Englishman. What ever happened to all those hard men from Russia, Kazakhstan, Korea and, above all, Cuba? Changing times indeed.
Quote of the day(from the inimitable Jimmy Magee): "Blanco's brain has gone blanco...!"

Beijing Cabin Fever Hits Journalists


For journalists, a week and a half in the Olympic bubble clearly causes a certain amount of giddiness.
On the BBC breakfast show , a chap called Adrian proposes that Amy Winehouse be the face of the 2012 Olympics. He has a point – Winehouse is probably closer to the typical Brit than Paula Radcliffe or all those cyclists who seem happy to spend their days living like hamsters in a cage.
Then in the Irish Times, our old pal Iano shows clear signs of having spent too much time in the Beijing boot camp with an article of heavy-handed satire (we think).
“ When an athlete steps on to the track at the Olympics it's not simply show time. It's something they've worked towards for years; it's life-defining as, with the whole world watching, their Neil Armstrong moment arrives. Yesterday, David Gillick didn't even step out of the spaceship.
One small step back for Gillick.
One giant leap backward for Irish athletics.”
Bloody hell – we thought David Gillick was just a talented 400m runner, the best we’ve ever had, but one for whom making even the semi-finals of an Olympics would be a huge ask. He trains with Martin Rooney after all – and the Brit born of Irish parents is a second faster than him.
Iano moves on to voice what he thinks are the opinions of the TV-watching public back home.
“ So all our athletes are crap. We deserve better than this. This is taxpayers' money. We want to see finalists or personal bests and maybe even some medals.”
Gillick’s “failure” he says (on behalf of the Irish public), deserves some hard questioning. Really? I would have thought the Irish public just says “hard luck” and moves on to its real concerns – the All Ireland and the Premiership.
“ It doesn't matter that he's won two European Indoor titles for Ireland. That he left his family and friends to base himself at Loughborough University in England, because the facilities and coaching simply aren't available in Ireland. That he's put four years work into getting it right at the Olympics, only to see it go inexplicably wrong,” says Iano.
Then there’s Derval O’Rourke - another “failure”.
H’mm. How about this for a theory. Both Gillick and O’Rourke moved away from home, from the “inadequate” training facilities and “below-par” coaching that had brought them considerable success and allowed them to go full-time.
Maybe they would have been better staying put among their friends, with family support and coaches who knew and understood them, rather than travelling to the UK, where they were very small fry in a big pond. When you’re away from home, the long hours between training sessions can become a huge burden.
Iano then turns his – we hope – satirical eye on our distance runners. Where have all our distance runners gone, he asks. Róisín McGettigan made the final of the steeplechase and bombed, he says. Oh yeh? Roisin was in a race where the pace was set by a couple of very suspect Russians. Possibly she got her tactics wrong, but we are not going to make matters worse for a very brave athlete by slamming her performance.
“Why aren't more athletes coming through the US scholarship system anymore, like Delany, Murphy, Coghlan, Treacy, O'Sullivan, O'Mara, Sonia, etc?” he then asks. We all know why – distance running is something you do for “fun” these days; there is no point in white guys and gals even attempting to stay with the Africans. At least that’s how it seems.
Finally the paragraph that provoked me into writing this:
“We've pretty much agreed by now that Alistair Cragg is a loser, but then he's not really one of ours anyway, and Pauline Curley was practically an embarrassment in the women's marathon - even if she epitomised the last remnants of the Olympic spirit."
Cragg – a loser? The chap has had an extraordinarily difficult passage through life. You wouldn’t wish it on anyone. He needs our support – not criticism, even in the form of heavy handed sarcasm.
As for Pauline, she has been the high point of the Irish Olympic effort, representing us ordinary sloggers who still go out for a run most days and line up against her every weekend. She has set a wonderful example by her dignity, grace and humility.
Iano we suspect knows this. Here is the following paragraph, where his anger and frustration is (at last) obvious:
“Who wants to see a 39-year-old amateur finishing the marathon when we have Michael Phelps chasing eight gold medals in the Water Cube, all carefully orchestrated for NBC and their 2,000 broadcasters in Beijing (only one of whom, by the way, is staying on for the Paralympics)?
Iano – we know your heart is in the right place, but we get the feeling members of the bruised and battered Irish team in Beijing may need convincing.
Good luck for the remaining few days in the Beijing Babble-on - and stay out of that smog!

Sailing: Lucky 13th for O'Leary, Milne


Star fleet sailors Peter O'Leary (Cork) and Stephen Milne (Bangor) have finished 13th in the Olympic regatta after only a year campaigning together.
On an exciting day in Qingdao, O'Leary and Milne produced their fourth top ten result in the Star class placing 8th in their first race of the day. Because of all the delays, racing had started early so that the Opening Series could be concluded in time. The Irish pair finished 11th and 12th in races 9 and 10.
Counting four top ten race finishes in their first Olympic Regatta this young pair - both aged 22 and a controversial choice for the team after Max Treacey and Anthony Shanks won Ireland the place - can now look forward to London 2012. There the Olympic Sailing Regatta will take place in Weymouth in conditions very similar to home waters. The experience O’Leary and Milne have gained in Qingdao will stand to them.
In the Opening Series overall, O'Leary and Milne counted 6th, 12th, 7th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 8th, 11th, 12th and discarded a 13th.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

* IRISH TEAM IN ACTION: Day 12

Wednesday, August 20th
(all times Irish)

Sailing
07.00 - Star Keelboat (Stephen Milne and Peter O'Leary) races 8, 8th, race 9, 11th, race 10, 12th; 13th overall, 91 pts.

Athletics
12.00 - 800m Rd 1, Ht 1, Thomas Chamney (along with Yuriy Borzakovsky and Wilfred Bungei), 5th, 1:47.66; dnq.

13.15 - 5,000m Rd 1, Ht 1, Alistair Cragg, 6th 13:38.57; one of 30 through.

Boxing
13.01 - Middleweight quarter-final, Darren Sutherland (Ire) bt Alfonso Blanco Parra (Ven)
11-1

Boxing: Two Bronze Medals - At Least!


Belfast's Paddy Barnes has won Ireland’s first medal of these Olympics after beating Lukasck Maszczyk 11-5 in today's light flyweight quarter-final.
The win guarantees Barnes at least a bronze medal. He faces a tough task against home favourite Zou Shiming in Friday's semi-finals (12pm).
Barnes is the lightest member of the Irish team; team captain Kenneth Egan, a light heavyweight (81kg) from the Neilstown club in Clondalkin, Dublin, is the heaviest.
A few hours later, he followed Barnes into the semi-finals with a clinical 8-0 demolition of the Brazilian Washington Silva. Even a non-boxing fan couldn't fail to be impressed by his performance - Egan is the best Irish boxer for years, with eight Irish and four European titles to his credit, and his pure class was obvious.
He clearly has great support - watching on the television, you could hear the Irish fans - cheering every move, singing 'The Fields of Athenry" and then counting down the final seconds - "five, four , three , two, ONE....!!" Magic stuff.
Add to that the excellent commentary by Jimmy Magee in Beijing and the expert analysis by Mick Dowling in the studio, and boxing is playing a blinder at these Games.
Egan now fights Tony Jeffries (GBR) in the first semi-final on Friday (14.01 our time)
In action at the same time as Egan was Paul Hession in the first semi-final of the 200m. He finished a brave fifth in a time of 20.38 - a bit slower than in the previous rounds, but then running three top class level races in two days is a big ask. He did us proud.

Sailing: Another Postponement

More frustration for the Irish sailors, Peter O'Leary and Stephen Milne in the Star class, with the two races scheduled for today now rescheduled for tomorrow (Wed 20th Aug).
Event organisers have a tough challenge to ensure that Races 8, 9 & 10 are completed in order to conclude the ten race Opening Series. In addition, under the Regatta Rules, no race can start after 16.00hrs local time on the closing day of the Opening Series.
Only the top ten boats from the Opening Series can compete in the Final Medal Race which is scheduled for Thurs Aug 21
Currently the Irish Star sailors are 14th overall, just eight points off Italy in 10th place and are naturally eager to count all three races tomorrow.
Their results to date include 6th, 12th, 7th, 10th, 12th, 13th; they are discarding another 13th result.

Monday, August 18, 2008

* IRISH TEAM IN ACTION: Day 11

Irish in action on Tuesday, August 19
(all times Irish)

Sailing
07.00 Star Class race 8, Stephen Milne & Peter O'Leary; postponed.
Boxing
12.00 Light Flyweight quarter-final, Paddy Barnes (Ire) bt Lukasz Maszczyk (Pol) 11-5.
14.16 Light Heavyweight quarter-final, Kenny Egan (Ire) bt Washington Silva (Bra) 8-0.
Athletics
14.15 200m semi-final 1, Paul Hession, 5th, 20.38.

Showjumping: Lynch Through to Final


Denis Lynch, riding the great Lantinus, today posted his worst result of the equestrian event so far, but still almost certainly did enough to qualify for the final of the individual show-jumping competition.

Lynch, who was off 13th and ranked equal fourth before this third qualifying round, hit the tape on the water jump for four faults and also picked up two time faults.

With a total of eight faults over three rounds, he lies in a comfortable eighth position, just one place behind defending champion Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil. While the individual table could be altered by the team competition, starting today, Lynch's place in the final looks safe.

The final of the individual jumping competition will be held on Thursday August 21 (12.15 Irish time), when the top 35 riders left in the competition will be reduced to 20. These will fight for medal positions in a final round starting 3.10 Irish time.

"It was another top class performance from Denis Lynch. He disturbed no poles and Lantinus's touch of the tape on the water jump was uncharacteristic - and as a similar technicality may well come up on the final course, Denis will know not to under-ride it. It is something that is easily rectified. This is a step-by-step process, and I think Denis is handling it brilliantly," said Irish team manager Robert Splaine.

Sailing: Peelo Finishes 20th


Today saw an earlier start for the Irish sailors still competing in Qingdao with the event organisers aiming to bring the racing back on schedule.
In the Laser Radial class Ciara Peelo took 25th in Race 5, 18th in Race 8 and 10th in Race 9 to finish 20th overall in the 2008 Olympic Regatta.
The Laser Radial Opening Series is concluded after just 9 races and only the top ten boats will compete in the Final Medal Race. Peelo at 20th failed to make it. During the Opening Series Peelo counted 23th, 17th, 15th, 7th, 13th, 24th, 18th, 10th and discarded a 25th as her lowest result.
In the Star class Peter O'Leary & Stephen Milne took 12th in Race 5, 13th in Race 6 and 7. With seven races now complete in the ten race Opening Series, O'Leary & Milne can discard 13th as their lowest result.
O’Leary & Milne are 14th overall with 60 points, just eight points behind Italy in 10th place. Sweden's Fredrik Loof & Anders Ekstrom currently lead the fleet with 23 points.
Three races remain to be sailed in the Opening Series before the top ten boats compete in the Final Medal Race on Thursday 21st Aug. In order to bring the racing schedule back on track the Star class will sail Race 8 tomorrow (Tues 19th Aug) on what was originally a rest or reserve day.

Should We Fund Olympic Sport?

http://www.tribune.ie/article/2008/aug/17/should-taxpayers-fund-elite-athletes/?q=Coleman
An edited version of an excellent article by Shane Coleman in yesterday's Sunday Tribune (read the full thing at the link above)

Of course the skills and achievements of our Olympians should be recognised but maybe the cost is too high. I think it's best if I set out my stall straight away: I find the Olympics to be an absolutely monumental bore.
It's not so much the countless revelations of drug taking/cheating; the rampant commercialism that is so removed from the original Olympics ideals or the ludicrous proposition of having tennis players or footballers at the games when winning a gold medal is, at most, going to be a footnote in their careers that have turned me off – although these factors have done much to undermine the so-called biggest sporting event on the planet.
To be fair, there's no doubting the brilliance of the athletes involved. Not just the likes of Michael Phelps, with his bulging pockets of gold medals, but pretty much everybody who is competing. And it's also possible to recognise that achievement while still questioning whether it's the role of the taxpayer to fund their very personal bid for Olympic glory.
Over the past four years, the Irish taxpayer has forked out over €30m to help finance our elite Olympic athletes, without any cost benefit analysis or debate as to whether or not this is money well spent.
Even if the Irish team does succeed in bringing home medals, the question as to whether this outlay of €30m-plus is a good use of taxpayers' money is still just as legitimate.
By giving money to elite athletes, isn't it less about investing in sport and more about investing in the individual dreams and goals of a small number of citizens? The case for investing in elite athletes, as opposed to PE teachers, swimming pools, football pitches, basketball courts etc, is much less clear.
Research shows that, on average, each gold medal costs €25m while, in general, the average cost of a medal is €5.4m – and there is no evidence to show that the success of athletes at the highest level promotes wider participation in sport. A 1996 study by the University of South Australia found no statistical or causal link between the two. This raises the obvious question as to whether this money might be more productively used elsewhere.
It is, of course, the absolute right of any person to aim to be the best in their particular field or sport, but is it really the duty of the state to subsidise their bid for 'excellence', particularly when it comes at the expense of measures that benefit the wider community? In the US, which at the time of writing had won more medals than any other country, there is no public funding of Olympic teams. Financing comes from corporate, community or private sources.
An Olympic gold medal does create a national feel-good factor, but so would winning the Eurovison song contest. A country that affirms itself by sporting success is hardly one in which any sane citizen would want to live – remember East Germany?
And, while we want our children to participate in sports, it is surely questionable whether we should want them to strive to be Olympians. While I'll happily stand at the sideline on a freezing cold winter Saturday morning at our local GAA club, I don't really want my children getting up at 4.30am five mornings a week to train in the swimming pool in a bid for Olympic glory.
It's not the almost certain futility of that bid for glory that I have the problem with – there is nothing wrong with striving and falling short – it's the strong doubts I have as to whether the price for those efforts is worth paying. As taxpayers, we should be asking the same question about our funding of elite athletes.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

* IRISH TEAM IN ACTION: Day 10


Irish team in action Monday, August 18th
All times Irish

02.00 – Women’s Triathlon, Emma Davies, 37th, 2:06.28.

Athletics
02.48 - 400m Ht 7, David Gillick, 4th, 45.83; dnq.
03.50 - Hammer Qualification Gp B, Eileen O'Keefe, 62.53; 62.05; 67.66; dnq.
03.40 - 200m Rd 1, Ht 6, Paul Hession, 3rd, 20.59; Rd 2, Ht 4, 1st 20.32 (7th fastest into semi-finals).

Sailing
04.00 Laser Radial (Ciara Peelo) race 7, 25th; race 8 18th, race 9, 10th; 20th overall (class complete). Star Class (Stephen Milne & Peter O'Leary) race 5 12th, race 6 and 7, 13th; 14th overall

Equestrian
12.15 Individual Show Jumping 3rd Qualifier, Denis Lynch; 13th to go.

Also:
Cycling
Women's individual pursuit, Wendy Houvenghel (GBR - from Derry) ) 2nd 3:30.395.

Athletics: Good on Ya Pauline!


Pauline Curley was all smiles after finishing the women’s marathon in 63rd place with a time of 2:47:16.

This was a real fairytale ending for me,” Pauline said. “The whole experience of getting a late selection for Beijing- having my mother,my husband Adrian and our son Emmet here, as well as so many of my extended family and friends from Tullamore Harreirs has been such a joy,” she said.

I went down to the Bird’s Nest on Friday night to see Roisin McGettigan and Fionnuala Britton compete and I cried with sheer joy for my good fortune. I am so happy and pleased that I ran my own race and I finished in a respectable time. I say to everybody- hang on to your dream, because dreams can come true. I know that now because it has happened to me and I am so full of gratitude for all these good things that have happened for me. Work hard and good things can happen for you too.”

Ireland's Roisin McGettigan finished a disappointing 14th with a time of 9:55.89 in the 3,000m steeplechase final.
McGettigan struggled with the world record-breaking pace set by Russian Gulnara Galkina-Samitova who became the first women to break nine minutes for the event. Eunice Jepkorir of Kenya won the silver and Russia's Ekaterina Volkova the bronze. Russia has been accused of "systematic doping" before these Games, with seven athletes suspended, but these two - so far- have come up clean.
Derval O’Rourke trailed home sixth in her 100m hurdles heat with a time of 13.22. Starting in lane eight, an unusually tense O'Rourke was false started at the first attempt and faded after 50 metres when the race finally got underway.
In the second heat of the 400m hurdles, Michelle Carey was seventh in 57.99.

Showjumping: Lynch Lies 4th


Showjumper Denis Lynch kept his medal hopes alive with another brilliant round of jumping with Lantinus at Sha Tin today.
In an otherwise flawless round, Lynch picked up a single time faults – just as he had in Friday’s opening qualifier.
Lynch was the first competitor to jump clear, but was followed by reigning world champion Jos Lansink riding Cumano, who also picked up a single time fault. The pair now share fourth position with Norway's Tony Andre Hansen.
Sweden's Rolf-Goran Bengtsson on Ninja and Mclain Ward of the USA riding with Sapphire both had a second clear round to lead the standings, with defending champion Rodrigo Pessoa riding Rufus in third position .
The final of the individual jumping competition will be held on Thursday August 21, when the top 35 riders left in the competition will be reduced to 20 who will fight for medal positions in a final round.

Equestrian Jumping Individual 1st and 2nd Qualifier: 1 Eric Lamaze (Can) 0 (q3), 1 Mclain Ward (USA) 0 (q3), 3 Rodrigo Pessoa (Bra) 1 (q3), 4 Jos Lansink (Bel) 2 (q3), 4 Denis Lynch (Irl) 2 (q3), 4 Tony Andre Hansen (Nor) 2 (q3), 7 Marc Houtzager (Ned) 3 (q3), 8 Edwina Alexander (Aus) 4 (q3), 8 Stein Endresen (Nor) 4 (q3), 8 Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (Swe) 4 (q3), 8 Niklaus Schurtenberger (Swi) 4 (q3), 8 Christina Liebherr (Swi) 4 (q3)

Sailing: Schedule Falls Behind

Another long day on the water for the remaining Irish sailors with just one race completed in both the Star and Laser Radial classes. With both classes now behind schedule, the full series of ten races may not be completed before the Final Medal Race.
Once again the small sailed Laser Radial failed to complete more than one race before conditions turned against them. Ciara Peelo placed 24th in Race 6, which she now discards as her lowest result. Peelo is 19th overall and 22 points behind the Swiss boat in 10th place.
In the Star class, Peter O'Leary & Stephen Milne placed 10th in Race 4 and lie 11th overall. They are just 1 point outside the top ten boats and just 14 points off the leaders, Poland's Mateusz Kusznierewicz & Dominik Zycki.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

* IRISH TEAM IN ACTION: Day 9

Irish Team in action, Sun Aug 17
(all times Irish)

Athletics
0:30 Women's Marathon Pauline Curley, 63rd, 2:47.16
12:07 Women's 100m hurdles rd 1, heat 2, Derval O'Rourke, 6th, 13.22
13:18 Women's 400m hurdles rd 1, heat 2, Michelle Carey, 7th, 57.99
14:30 Women's 3000m steeplechase final, Roisin McGettigan, 14th, 9:55.85

Sailing
05:00 Laser Radial(Ciara Peelo) Races 6, 7 and 8; Star (Stephen Milne and Peter O'Leary) Races 4, 5 and 6

Equestrian
12:15 Showjumping Individual, second qualifier, Denis Lynch, eq 4th, 1 time fault

Athletics: What's It All About?

Watching Usain Bolt of Jamaica win the men's 100m, the BBC commentators admit they are at a loss for words. The man has won the race slowing down - and still broken his own world record with a stunning time of 9.68. They then show endless minutes of footage of him "show-boating" - in their words.
The greatest race ever? H'mmm. Why then do I feel a bit sick?
Likewise with the women's 10,000m - Dibaba running faster than anyone except the disgraced Chinese (who then made a brief appearance at the orienteering event but that's another story) and finishing ahead of a very suspect Turk.
Why do the commentators drool and take what they see at face value? I am absolutely certain that informed viewers don't.
So if we can't accept that men and women run that fast or that far on their own steam, what future for the sport?
What a relief that we Irish have sportsmen like Eoin Rheinisch, Scott Evans and Chloe Magee as well as the boxers to celebrate. We can only offer our sympathy to our brave athletes, who are truly up against it in what has become a very nasty sport.

* A full list of athletes who have served doping bans and are competing in Beijing can be seen at http://grg51.typepad.com/steroid_nation/2008/08/nathan-baggaley.html
* An excellent article on whether any "clean" athlete can break 10.8 is linked at the above


From a Jamaican blog:
In a bi-partisan move to blow away the clouds of suspicion and criticism, the Jamaican senate on Friday passed our country’s first anti-doping law. Jamaica has been under recent scrutiny most noticeably from the international media about the lack of out of competition drug testing and over all anti-doping laws. At least this will help boast public confidence and maybe ease some worried minds. With Jamaica taking two of the fastest sprinters to Beijing we can still expect more scrutiny and jealous bias reports. Other than that, this is good for Jamaican sports.

The Anti-Doping in Sport Act, 2008, received unanimous support from the Senate yesterday; days after the House of Representatives gave the bill the green light.

Attorney General and Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Dorothy Lightbourne, piloted the bill, which will facilitate the setting up of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Com-mission. The agency will be responsible for regulating and controlling doping in sport locally.

According to Senator Lightbourne, the decision by Government to enact legislation to establish the commission, followed its adoption of the World Anti-Doping Programme and the World Anti-Doping Code.

A.J. Nicholson, leader of Opposition business in the Senate, said Jamaica was now at the pinnacle of its achievements in athletics, with the country boasting the two fastest men in the world - Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell.

He highlighted the consequences of breaching the anti-doping rules, pointing out that athletes could be slapped with disqualification or suspension. Athletes could be tested for illegal drugs at least 12 hours before participating in an event, he added.

Nicholson also commented on the importance of the commission, noting that if the integrity of this body was called into question it could deal a devastating blow to the Jamaican sporting fraternity.

However, he said for decades Jamaica has had sport administrators of unquestionable character.

Government Senator Don Wehby lauded the country’s athletes for their excellent performances, which have been a source of pride for Jamaica.

He defended the integrity of Jamaica’s athletes and castigated “misguided and poorly informed commentators” who have stopped short of saying Caribbean athletes were using performance-enhancing drugs.

Athletics: Heffernan 8th


Robert Heffernan finished 8th in the men’s 20k walk – living up exactly to his world ranking.
Heffernan, who had led after the halfway mark, was unable to keep pace with the leaders after the 15 kilometres mark and finished in 1 hr 20.36 minutes, over a minute behind race winner Valeriy Borchin of Russia.
Joanne Cuddihy, who has been struggling with injury, trailed home in sixth in heat four of the women's 400m in a time of 53.32.

Boxing: Sutherland, Barnes into Quarter-Finals


Three Irish boxers are now just eight minutes away from an Olympic medal after Darren Sutherland and Paddy Barnes joined team captain Kenny Egan in the quarter-finals,

Sutherland stopped Nabil Kassel of Algeria in a punishing victory which the referee stopped in the fourth round when the Irish fighter was leading 21-14. He will fight Alfonso Blanco Parra in the middleweight last eight, with the winner guaranteed a bronze medal at least.

Flyweight Paddy Barnes outclassed Jose Luis Meza from Ecuador, beating him 14-0. In Tuesday’s quarter-finals, he faces Luzasz Maszczyk of Poland.

Sailing: Another Long Day on the Water

"Another long day on the water," reported James O'Callaghan from the sailing at Qingdao, where conditions are as difficult as everyone expected in an area not renowned for big winds.
After just one race of the scheduled three, a very strong current called a halt to Ciara Peelo' s Laser Radial class. The small sails meant that the boats were struggling badly unlike the Star and 470 boats with their larger sails.
Race 5 was the toughest yet for Peelo, with all the fleet struggling to main positions and fighting the current. " It was a snakes and ladders kind of race in which Ciara finished really well. From rounding the first windward mark in 10th, Ciara picked up another place on the run. She dropped back to 16th before climbing back to finish in 13th"
Although lying 14th overall at the half way stage of the competition, Peelo is just 12 points behind Argentina in 10th place and is still in the hunt for a place in the top ten Final Medal Race. The remaining five races are scheduled over the next two days.
Star sailors Stephen O'Leary & Stephen Milne had reasonable high scoring results to provide a solid start to their competition and put them ninth - ahead of multiple Olympic and World Champion Robert Scheidt (Brazil) in 11th place.
Gerald Owens & Phil Lawton finished 16th overall in the 470 double handed men's class which has completed its Opening Series of ten races, with the top ten going into the Final Medal Race. Owens has matched his Athens placing of 16th and can be pleased with his first two Olympic race wins.

Friday, August 15, 2008

IRISH IN ACTION: Day 8

Irish team in action Saturday August 16
(all times Irish)

Athletics
02.00 - 20km Walk Rob Heffernan, 8th, 1:20.36
05.10 - Women's 400m r1, h4, Joanne Cuddihy, 6th, 53.32.

Sailing
06.00 – Sailing Men's 470 Class (Ger Owens and Philip Lawton) races 8 15th, 9 13th and 10 24th; 16th overall. Men's Star Class (Peter O'Leary and Stephen Milne) - races 2 12th, 3 7th; 9th overall. . Women's Laser Radial (Ciara Peelo) - races 5 13th; 14th. Current foced cancellation of races 6 and 7.

Cycling
09.30 - Men's Pursuit David O'Loughlin, 11th.
Also:
Women's Individual Pursuit
Rd 1, ht 4, Wendy Houvenaghel (GBR - from Derry) bt Lada Kozilkara (Cze) 3:27.829.

Boxing
08.45 - Middleweight (75kg) Darren Sutherland bt Nabil Kassel (Alg) 21-14 (rsc); now fights Alfonso Blanco Parra (Ven) in quarter-final.
12.0 - Lt Flyweight (48kg) Paddy Barnes bt Jose Luis Meza (Ecu) 14-8; now fights Lukasz Maszczyk (Pol) in quarter-final (Tue)

Rowing
Men's 4, B final, 4th 6:07.97; 10th overall.
Also:
Single sculls, Alan Campbell (GBR - from Coleraine) 5th.

Rowing: Lightweight 4 out

Ireland’s lightweight four have failed to make the Olympic final after they finished fourth in their semi-final.
The crew of Paul Griffin (stroke), Richard Archibald, Gearoid Towey and Cathal Moynihan (bow) started well in heat B and by halfway at 1000m, were still in contention for a top three place and the final. But they faded in the last 250m, and at the finish were well behind winners Denmark; France and Great Britain (whose crew includes Richard Chambers a former team -mate of Richard Archibald at Coleraine Inst).

Boxing: Nevin Loses

Bantamweight boxer John Joe Nevin's Olympic dream is over after he was defeated 9-2 by Mongolia's Badan-Uugar Enkhbat.
Enkhbat, a silver medal winner at this year's World Championships, showed his class when he picked off Nevin at will. Nevin was forced to take two counts in the third round but continued to attack.

Athletics: Great Run by McGettigan


Roisin McGettigan has qualified for Sunday's final of the women's steeplechase (2.30pm) after finishing second in the second of two qualifiers in 9:28.92.

With two laps to go, she moved away from the chasing pack along with Tatiana Petrova of Russia and Jessica Augusto of Portugal. In the sprint for the line Petrova narrowly made it home first in 9:28.25. McGettigan's time puts her 13th of the 15 to have made the final.

In the first heat, Fionnuala Britton finished tenth in a season's best time of 9:43.57.

Alastair Cragg finished eighth in heat 2 of the men's 1500m opening round , with a time of 3:44.90 less than four seconds behind the winner Asbel Kipruto Kiprop.

Sailing: Goodbody Finishes in 21st

Tim Goodbody took 15th in Race 8 in the Finn class to place 21st overall in the 2008 Olympics Sailing Regatta. Goodbody is the first of the Irish Sailors to complete their regatta after races 9 and 10 were canclled due to ight winds. .

Peter O'Leary & Stephen Milne made their Olympic debut today in the Star men's keelboat class where they placed 6th in Race 1 of their ten race opening series. Race 2 is rescheduled.

Gerald Owens & Phil Lawton in the 470 class moved to 14th place overall when they came 21st place in Race 7. Race 8 is rescheduled.

Ciara Peelo in the Laser Radial class placed 7th in Race 4 to move to 15th overall. Race 5 is resheduled.

Show-jumping: Time Fault for Lynch

Denis Lynch and "Lantinus" picked up one time fault in his opening Olympic round at Sha Tin, Hong Kong this afternoon (Friday), and will now go through to the next individual qualifier on Sunday.
"It's a game of tactics at this stage. Denis, I think, knew well he would incur a time fault, but the horse has to be saved for the next two rounds of jumping on Sunday and Monday, when the competition will become seriously difficult, "said team manager Robert Splaine.
Lynch is in joint 13th position in the first qualifier, with today's fault to be carried forward to Sunday.
The final of the individual jumping competition will be held on Thursday August 21, when the top 35 riders left in the competition will be whittled down to 20 for one final round to decide the medals.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Swimming: Nocher Wins But Not Fast Enough

Melanie Nocher won her heat in the women's 200m backstroke, setting a new Irish record of 2:12.29. Unfortunately, that wasn't fast enough to see her through to the semi-finals. While her was quick enough to win the fourth heat, it was well outside the slowest qualifying time, recorded by Gemma Spofforth of Britain in the third heat (2:10.58).

* IRISH TEAM IN ACTION: Day 7

Irish in Action - Fri Aug 15
(all times Irish)

Sailing
05.00 - Men's Finn Class races 8, 15th; 9 & 10 (Tim Goodbody), ; Laser Redial Class (Ciara Peelo) races 4, 7th; 14th overall.
06.00 -Men's 470 (Ger Owens & Phil Lawton) race 7, 21st; 14th overall; Men' s Star (Peter O'Leary, Stephen Milne) race 1, 6th

Rowing
09.10 Men's Ltwt 4 semi-final (Colin Moynihan, Gearoid Towey, Richard Archibald, Paul Griffin), 6th, 5:58.14.

Cycling

09.55: Men's Individual Pursuit qualifying, David O'Loughlin, 11th.

Equestrian

12.15: Showjumping (individual). First qualifier, Denis Lynch, riding Lantinus. One time fault; eq 13th.

Athletics
12.10: Men's 1500m heats, Alistair Cragg, 8th, 3:44.90
13.25: Women's steeplechase, ht 1, Fionnuala Britton, 10th 9:43.57
13.37: Women's steeplechase, ht 2, Roisin McGettigan, 2nd, 9:28.92

Boxing
13.45: Men's Bantamweight Rd 2, John Joe Nevin lost to Badar-Uugan Enkbhat (Mon)

Rain Stops Play

Thunderstorms over the Shunyi Olympic rowing venue forced the postponement of today's programme, which means the Irish lightweight four has to wait until tomorrow to compete in the semi-finals.
Also behind schedule are the sailors with both Finn (Tim Goodbody) and Laser Radial (Ciara Peelo) classes abandoned due to lack of wind.
Meanwhile today was a scheduled rest day for Gerald Owens & Phil Lawton in the 470 class. Lying 11th overall, and chasing a top ten place to ensure they can compete in the Final Medal Race, their races resume tomorrow.
Tomorrow (Friday) will also see the start of the Star class, where Peter O'Leary & Stephen Milne - the last of Ireland's sailors - will begin their campaign. .

WIN A COPY OF 'FASTER, HIGHER, STRONGER'




Win a copy of "Faster, Higher, Stronger - A History of Irish Olympians" by going to the Irish Times and clicking on their Olympic coverage. Or go directly to www.irishtimes.com/competitions/faster-higher-stronger.
Good luck!
PS: If you can't find "Faster, Higher, Stronger" in your local book shop please ask - they can order it for you. Or go directly to www.ashfieldpress.com. Or see us at various road races, etc coming up.

Boxing: Egan One Fight Away from Bronze

Irish boxing captain Kenny Egan beat Bahram Muzaffer (Tur) 10-2 to win a place in the light heavyweight quarter-finals. Egan will now fight Washington Silva (Bra) next Tuesday, and if he wins, is guaranteed at least a bronze medal.

The news wasn't so good for Johnny Joyce who went out in the last 16 of the light-welterweight class after a heartbreaking loss to Felix Diaz of the Dominican Republic. The two fighters were tied 11-11 at the end of the bout, but a public warning in the first round lost the Irishman the fight.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Swimming: Bree 5th in Semi-Final


Andrew Bree smashed his Irish 200m breaststroke record again but missed out on qualification for the men's 200 metres final in Beijing.
The Helen's Bay swimmer finished fifth in the opening semi-final on Wednesday in a time of 2.10.16. Bree has taken three seconds off his record in less than 24 hours; his best time before Beijing was 2.13.14.
Bree had also entered in the 200m individual medley.

* IRISH TEAM IN ACTION: Day 6

Irish in Action - Thu Aug 14
(all times Irish)

06.00 - Sailing
Men's Finn Class races 8, 9 (Tim Goodbody); Laser Redial Class races 3, 4 (Ciara Peelo). All sailing cancelled. Tomorrow three races are scheduled for Laser Radial and Finn, starting 3am Irish time. Organisers hope to conclude the Finn preliminary series. Two races are set for the 470 Men, starting 6am Irish time.

08.15 - Boxing
Men's Lt Heavyweight Rd 2 (last 16). Kenny Egan (Irl) bt Bahram Muzaffer (Tur) 10-2

09.10 - Rowing
Men's Ltwt 4 semi-final (Colin Moynihan, Gearoid Towey, Richard Archibald, Paul Griffin). Postponed until tomorrow same time.

13.00 - Boxing
Men's Lt Welterweight Rd 2 John Joe Joyce (Irl) lost to Felix Diaz (Dom) 11-11 (countback; ref's decision)
13.20 Swimming
Women's 200m Backstroke heat 4, Melanie Nocher, 1st 2:12.29 (IR)

Sailing: Second win for Owens & Lawton


Ger Owens & Phil Lawton have won race 5 in the 470 double handed men’s dinghy class - the second race win for the pair in the opening series. They are now placed 11th overall when they discard their 25th from race six.
Only the top ten boats will compete in the Final Medal Race. Owens & Lawton on 56 points lie just three points behind New Zealand in 10th place. Australia's Nathan Wilmot & Malcolm Page lead the fleet on 24 points.
The light winds of Qingdao faded completely today and for the first time the event organisers were unable to complete the day's racing schedule.
Following a rest day, the Finn class resumed, with Tim Goodbody 22nd in Race 7 ; race 8 is now scheduled for tomorrow (Thu). Goodbody lies in 22nd with 98 points.
In the Laser Radial, Ciara Peelo was 15th in Race 3; race 4 is also rescheduled for tomorrow. She lies 23rd on 55 points.
“Olympic competition is very different to a world championship. Here the fleets are so much smaller that when you lose one or two places you lose a much bigger percentage of your overall result, ” says James O’Callaghan ISA Performance Director in Qingdao
“The mark roundings and finishes are very close. Normally a fleet would be spread out but all boats appear to be finishing within a minute or two of the leaders. Today Ger & Phil won their race just six seconds ahead of the fleet – it’s that close.”

Rowing: Four into B final; Campbell makes final


Ireland's heavyweight four will race in tomorrow's 'B' final after finishing sixth in today's semi-final. Sean O'Neill in the stroke seat, Sean Casey, Jonno Devlin and bowman Cormac Folan put in another encouraging row as they clocked 5 mins, 58.14 secs - over four seconds faster than in the heats.

In the single sculls, Coleraine man Alan Campbell, rowing for GB, pulled back to finish second and make the final. Campbell's appearance at these Games had been in doubt after a tooth infection bizarrely spread to his knee, putting him on crutches.

He is one of three Coleraine men rowing in Beijing. Richard Archibald is part of the Irish lightweight four that competes in the semi-finals tomorrow (Thu), while Richard Chambers races with the GB lightweight four that won the world title last year.

Both Campbell and Archibald were in Athens at the last Olympics and Chambers says that more Colerain rowers are on the way.

"My younger brother Peter and a couple of others from Coleraine Inst are representing Ireland at junior level and hopefully seeing what we're doing will inspire more young guys to take rowing seriously.

"I try to be a good ambassador and advocate for rowing and will do whatever I can to promote the sport and support the clubs. Coleraine has become a real rowing town and I'm very proud of that," says Richard, who went to Oxford university.


O'Callaghan to Judge Walking Races


Ireland’s Pierce O’Callaghan has received a dramatic late call up to officiate at the Olympic Games in Beijing later this week.
O’Callaghan, who is about to take up a job with British Athletics after a stint with the European Athletics Association in Lausanne, Switzerland, was in Beijing baby-sitting his five-month-old daughter Savanagh, while his wife, Tamara, worked for the IOC.
The 32-year-old, who is the only Irish athletics official to have gained the highest level IAAF qualification, has been appointed deputy chief judge for all three race walking events, after a sudden illness suffered by Canadian official Daniel Michaud.
A former international walker from Ashbourne, Co Meath, O’Callaghan achieved the B standard for the Sydney Olympics in 2000 before illness forced a premature end to his career. He subsequently coached Jamie Costin for the Olympics in Sydney and Athens.
“I was absolutely thrilled to get the phone call from the IAAF, although it now means a different challenge - getting a baby-sitter while all three races are on!” he joked.
“It’s a massive honour, but I also feel it is a fair reflection of where Irish race walking is on a world wide level”
Ireland has four race walkers taking part; Robert Heffernan (Cork) and Olive Loughnane (Galway) in the 20km and Jamie Costin (Waterford) and Colin Griffin (Leitrim) in the 50km.
Altogether, eight judges will officiate in the race walking events. O’Callaghan’s job will be to inform the unfortunate walkers when they receive warnings from three judges.
His wife, Tamara O’Driscoll, an ex-CEO of Cycling Ireland, is a senior sponsorship manager for the IOC based in Lausanne.