It’s that time again; On Friday August 5th the Olympic Games, the world’s biggest sporting event, begins, sending the world ‘sports mad’ as it does every four years. 77 athletes will take to the stage at 31st Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro to represent Ireland at its 21st Olympic Games. They will compete in 14 sports over the 16 days of competition, and they’re part of the nearly 10,500 athletes expected to represent 207 countries in 306 events across 28 sports ranging from Archery to Wrestling.
(See also: Refugee Team to Contest Rio Olympics)
Two new sports have been added for this years games, Golf and Ruby 7’s. Ireland will not be represented in the Rugby 7’s competition while four golfers will represent Ireland at the games.
At the last Olympics (London 2012) Irish Athletes brought home a record-six medals: 4 bronze (Boxing – Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlon, Equestrian – Cian O’Connor and Athletics Robert Heffernan), 1 Silver (Boxing – John Joe Nevin) and 1 Gold (Boxing – Katie Taylor). This year they will be hoping to break that record again.
So who are Team Ireland 2016?
In athletics, 17 men and women will be flying the flag for Ireland. The 9 women and 8 men will be competing in the Pole Vault, and race in distances from 400m to the 50km Walk.
Ciara Everard from Kilkenny is Ireland’s hope for the 800m, while Ciara Meegan represents us in 1,500m. Fionnula McCormack hopes to do us proud in the 10,000m.
The 3,000m steeplechase sees three Irish hopefuls: Michelle Finn, Kerry O’Flaherty and Sara Treacy, who take part in a distance obstacle course featuring hurdles and water jumps.
Meanwhile Breege Connolly and Lizzie Lee join Fionnula McCormack to take part in the Marathon.
Tori Pena, a dual Irish-American citizen, who will have to break their personal best of 4.60m in the pole vault in order to be in the hope of an Olympic Medal, as 4.70m was the Bronze Medal height & 4.75m was vaulted by the Silver and Gold Medallists at London 2012.
For the men, Thomas Barr takes on the 400m Hurdles while Mark English is the other man on the track taking on the 800m.
Mick Clohisey, Paul Pollock and Kevin Seaward take on the Marathon. While in the Walking races Alex Wright competes in the 20km Walk and the 50km Walk, Brendan Boyce and Robert Heffernan (Bronze London 2012) join him in the 50km. This will be Robert Heffernan’s fifth Olympics having represented Ireland at every Olympic Games since Sydney 2000, an Irish Record for Olympic appearances. Heffernan, who finished fourth in London 2012 but was later upgraded to the Bronze position following the banning of a Russian athlete due to doping violations, will be hoping to add another medal to his collection in Rio.
Ireland has qualified two Badminton Players for the Olympics. Scott Evans and Chloe Magee. Both players represented Ireland at London 2012 but failed to progress from the Group Stage, something they both hope to achieve this year.
Boxing is Ireland’s best Olympic sport; 16 of Ireland’s 29 Gold Medals are from Boxing and with four won at London 2012, Team Ireland will be hoping its boxers can do the job again.
A Gold Medalist at London 2012, Katie Taylor will be back in the ring in the lightweight division, and will be hoping to avenge her loss to France’s Estelle Mossely in the Semi-Finals of the 2016 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships.
Flag Bearer at the opening ceremony, and Bronze Medalist from both 2008 and 2012 olympiads Paddy Barnes, will be hoping to reach the final in the Light Flyweight Division. Barnes is also hoping to becoming the first Irish Athlete to win a Medal at three Olympics. Fellow 2012 Bronze Medalist Michael Conlon will also be hoping to reach the final in Bantamweight division to win his second Olympic medal.
There are five first-time Olympians in the Boxing team, which sees Brendan Irvine (Flyweight), David Joyce (Lightweight), Steven Donnelly (Welterweight), Michael O’Reilly (Middleweight) and Joe Ward (Light heavyweight) hoping to add to Ireland’s boxing successes at the Olympics.
In the Cycling, Dan Martin and Nicolas Roche will hope to improve on their 90th and 89th finishes in the Road Race, while in the Velodrome Shannon McCurley takes part in the Women’s Keirin, a motor-paced cycle race in which track cyclists sprint for victory following a speed-controlled start.
Ireland has qualified its first diver since 1948 in the form of Oliver Dingley, who will compete in the 3m spring board. A bronze medalist at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasglow (which he had won in the past before switching allegiances to Ireland), he recently finished 15th at the 2016 FINA Diving World Cup and qualified for the Olympics at that event.
Ireland once-again is fielding a full equestrian team for the Olympics. Judy Reynolds (horse – Vancouver K) will compete in the Individual Dressage, while Greg Broderick (horse – Going Global) will compete in the Individual Jumping.
The Eventing Team, who will also compete in the Indiviudal Eventing, is composed of Clare Abbott (horse – Euro Prince), Jonty Evans (horse – Cooley Rorke’s Drift), Mark Kyle (horse – Jemilla) and Padraig McCarthy (horse – Simon Porloe).
This is the first Olympics for the whole Equestrian team.
Men’s Field Hockey
Ireland’s Field Hockey Team has qualified for its first Olympics since the state’s Independence. Field Hockey has been an Olympic sport since 1928 (but was also present at London 1908 and Antwerp 1920). Ireland competed as a home nation at the 1908 Olympics, but faces a tough challenge in Rio, where they’re in a venerable ‘group of death’ with Argentina, Canada, Germany, India and the Netherlands. The top four from the group will qualify for the Quarter Finals.
Golf returns to the Olympics for the first time since the 1904 Olympic Games in St Louis. Ireland has entered four Golfers in the tournaments. Leona Maguire (World no 278) and Stephanie Meadow (World no 469) take part in the Women’s Tournament while Pádraig Harrington (world no. 124) and Séamus Power (world no. 294) compete in the Men’s Tournament.
Kieran Behan (placed 53rd, London 2012) qualified for his second Olympics, while Ellis O’Reilly becomes Ireland’s first female gymnast to qualify for the Olympic Games. They both will compete in their respective All-Round Events in Artistic Gymnastics. This will see Kieran competing on the Floor, Pommel Horse, Rings, Vault, Parallel Bars and Horizontal Bars, while Ellis will compete on the Vault, Uneven Bars, Balance Beam and Floor.
Ireland has again qualified two athletes for the Modern Pentathlon. The modern Pentathlon tests the competitors in Fencing (épée one touch), Swimming (200m), Riding (Show Jumping) and a Combined shooting/running event (10 m air pistol over 3200 m). Natalya Coyle, who finished 9th at London 2012, will be hoping to improve on her performance, while teammate Arthur Lanigan-O’Keeffe will have to work hard to improve on his 25th finishing place in 2012.
At London 2012 Ireland only sent one rower to the Olympics; this time we have qualified 5 for Rio. Sanita Pušpure, who finished 13th in 2012, competes again Women’s Single Sculls, while Sinead Jennings and Claire Lambe compete in the Women’s Lightweight Double Sculls. Gary O’Donovan and Paul O’Donovan compete in the Men’s Lightweight Double Sculls.
Out at sea, Annalise Murphy, who finished 4th in Laser Radial at London 2012, will be hoping for a podium finish at Rio to claim Ireland’s second ever sailing medal. In the 49er FX class, Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey will compete in their first Olympics.
Finn Lynch will be hoping to do well in his first Olympic outing in the Laser class, while Matt McGovern and Ryan Seaton will compete in the 49er class.
Only three Irish Swimmers have qualified for Rio 2016, and all are competing at their first Olympics. Fiona Doyle will swim in two events, the 100m and 200m breaststroke, and Nicholas Quinn will also swim in two events, the 100m and 200m breaststroke. Shane Ryan will swim in three events, the 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle and the 100m backstroke.
Two Irish athletes have qualified for the Triathlon at Rio 2016; this grueling Swimming, Cycling and Racing event will take place over a combined 51.5km distance. Aileen Morrisson, who finished 43rd at the London Games, will be hoping for an improvement, while Bryan Keane takes part in his first Olympic Games.
The 2016 Olympic Games get underway on the 5th of August and run to 21st August in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Coverage available on RTÉ 2, the RTÉ iPlayer and the BBC.