So Olympics 2016 is only days away where 77 athletes from Ireland will compete in a number of different sports with hopes of medals in a few sports given some strong showings at London 2012 and also some really good performances in the years between London and Rio.
People like Annalise Murphy, Rob Heffernan and Natalya Coyle will want to improve on their performances where both Murphy and Heffernan finished just outside the medal places with Murphy leading her Laser Radial class until the final day of racing where she slipped from 1st to 4th.
The medal hopes are of course mostly with our boxers which has delivered most of our Olympic medals over the years. I feel that we can win at least 5 medals in Rio where I think athletes like Natalya Coyle and Ciara Mageean can deliver a medal in their respective sports. Rob Heffernan has unfinished business at Olympic level and will want to end his Olympic career on a high so I expect him to be fighting at the business end of 50km road race.
With all the controversy over the participation of Russia at this games over alleged doping offences , the Olympics has crept up unknown to people although most of the World’s best golfers have decided to skip Rio and concentrate on preparing for the Ryder Cup in September. While most of the golfers have sited the threat posed by the Zika virus has a contributing factor to them deciding against heading to Rio.
Another side show heading into these games was the fact that Professional boxers were given the chance to qualify for Rio and a number of our top amateurs were hugely disappointed by the move even though nearly every top Pro stayed away and didn’t attend the qualifying event. It would have made a mockery of the whole ethos of the Olympic Games.
Even though the continued participation of athletes that have been banned for failed drug tests is still a major blight on the second biggest sports event on the Planet after the FIFA World Cup. How a Federation can allow an athlete found guilty of failing a drugs Test the second chance to perform for their country is beyond me.
Another big issue that will hang over this Games as it has done at past Games is the eligibility row that will see a number of athletes compete for their adopted countries, a number of Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes will compete for countries like The Netherlands and Turkey to name just two countries who will have people born outside the country compete for them in track events like the 5,000 and 10,000 metres and also in the 100 and 200 metres.
This particular row has reared its ugly head in Rugby circles in recent times where a player has to least spend three years living and playing in his chosen country before he can even be considered for the National Team.
This has alas not been the case in a number of countries who have granted citizenship to a number of athletes so they can represent certain counties at this year’s Olympics. It is wrong that you can be given a fast tracked citizenship just to compete, there surely has to be correct procedures put in place before Tokyo 2020. This issue will not be corrected in time for Rio 2016 but it does need urgent attention.
To all of our 77 competing athletes I wish you all the very best and do yourselves , your families and the Nation proud. We are all behind you and who knows we may get a couple of surprise results at Rio 2016. I hope we can at least win 5 medals. To the athletes I have had regular contact with namely Ciara Mageean , Natalya Coyle , Fiona Doyle and Shannon Mc Curley I wish you all the best in Rio……..
So sit back and enjoy the Olympics everybody because it’s going to be one hell of a rollercoaster ride.
Cian Mc Gibney