‘Don’t expect medals yet’ insists Ski coach

Shane O'Connor (Irish Ski coach) in action before he retired

Shane O’Connor (Irish Ski coach) in action before he retired

His role may have changed from competitor to skier but Shane O’Connor is still part of Team Ireland currently competing at the Winter Olympic Games in  Sochi, Russia.

Shane is Ireland’s most experienced skier, having represented the country at five world championships as well as the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

“I started skiing when I was five, and I first represented Ireland at the World Championships in Japan in 1993 when I was 18 so I was a member of Team Ireland for 18 years before retiring,” informed Shane.

“I qualified for the World’s in 1995 too but they were postponed a year due to there being no snow and I subsequently missed these World’s as well as those in 1997, 1999 and 2001 due to a long-term knee injury” he said.

He also gave an insight into just how hard it is just to qualify for the Olympics.  “Olympics are very hard to qualify for as we only have one spot and as a part-time athlete I was competing against others who were full-time” said Shane.

“It wasn’t until 2008 that I decided to commit more time and try for the 2010 Olympics, so I increased my training time on snow from three-four weeks per year to 10-12 weeks per year and this was how I made top spot in Ireland and qualified for the 2010 Olympics.”

Shane now coaches Ireland’s current Olympic medal hopefuls, such as Seamus O’Connor and Conor Lyne.  He still thinks that representing Ireland is better than coaching. “For me there is no better sporting experience , the opening ceremony is incredible with the crowds and all the other world class athletes, pushing out of the start and crossing the finish line was insane”.

Shane says that being at the Olympics is the “pinnacle of any sporting career”.

“As a coach it is very different, you miss the excitement of competition and the adrenaline that comes with it, but you don’t have to deal with the nerves” he said, “for me the Vancouver experience cannot be matched but that doesn’t take away from the incredible experience of Sochi 2014”.

Shane ruled out any hope of medals at this Olympics for Ireland, but says that maybe in future we could.  “Ireland have an obvious disadvantage, we have no snow, so realistically medals are not an option right now” he said, “but with Seamus O’Connor there is a real possibility in the future as he’s only 16 and performing as one of the top 20 riders in the world already, watch this space!”.

Shane also encourages anyone who can to take up skiing, but also said it can be a demanding sport.  “For fun, make sure you get well fitted and comfortable boots and good warm ski gear (gloves, jacket, etc),” he concluded.

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