You are viewing the content for Wednesday 8 February 2006

What's so preposterous about Irish participation?

skiingBy Declan Colley
TO MOST Irish people the term 'a good wax' has more to do with hirsute people getting a makeover at the beautician, but for 38-year-old Rory Morrish it will mean the difference between a fast or a slow time in his Winter Olympics 15k freestyle cross-country bid.

Morrish is part of Ireland's four-strong team which will take part in the 2006 Winter Games which opens in Turin this week, and while he will openly admit that the team are not travelling in the expectation of bringing home any medals, he is delighted to be part of Ireland's burgeoning interest in winter sports.

To the relief of many, the Irish have not gone down the road of the tabloid-friendly, but woefully incompetent Eddie 'the Eagle' Edwards, Britain's laughable ski jumper who, it could be claimed, nearly ruined the careers of many serious British skiers, skaters and sledders people who were trying hard against the odds to break into the ranks of serious winter sportsmen and women, but got caught up in the fall-out from Edwards' deplorable self-publicity.

But, while the Irish may not be entertaining any real podium aspirations, they are determined to make their mark in their various disciplines with the intention of bringing winter sports to a broader Irish audience and encouraging others to follow in their footsteps.

Morrish's interest in cross-country skiing reckoned by many to be one of the most physically demanding of any sport only began five years ago when he moved from his native Cork to Norway as part of his work with a Swedish company.

A keen orienteering disciple, along with brother and six sisters (including former international runner Fionnuala), before he left Ireland, he was keen on keeping up his outdoor interests when he went to Norway, but as cross-country skiing is almost a complete obsession, and far and away the country's national sport in Norway, it was probably only natural he became interested.

"I started off doing ski-orienteering and progressed from there into cross-country racing," he says, adding that in a culture so different from that of his native land, and where there is little or no midweek socialising, the best way of getting to know people is either by going to the gym or taking to the forests and going skiing.

"I was not exactly a fresh young thing starting off at 33-years-of-age, but after a few races I realised I was not too bad at it, and I took it from there."

His biggest challenge was mastering the sport's unique technique, and he says that while there have been those in the sport who advocated brute strength as the primary route to success, the opposite has more often been proven the correct way to go.

"You have to be in good condition for this sport, no doubt, because it involves getting the most from every part of your body, and you also need a big heart and lung capacity.

"But technique is the main thing, and you have to master the sport's two main styles the running style, or the skating style, the latter of which is probably the fastest."

For Morrish though, representing Ireland as an international cross-country skier is no bundle of laughs and he has, over the years, struggled to keep pace with the best.

"The thing is that winter sports have no real profile in Ireland, so you're on your own out there. Since I began I've been the skier, the tech support guy, the coach and the masseur all rolled into one. All the Irish people out there involved in winter sports are trying to make an Irish imprint and also to try and stir up interest in Ireland.

"We do have a profile in some of the better known sports like downhill racing, thanks to Kirsty McGarry, and her sister before her, Tamsin, who was at the last Olympics in Salt Lake City.

"And, of course, Clifton Wrottesley very nearly won a medal at those games in the skeleton event on the bobsleigh run and that stirred up a lot of interest.

"But while most of our winter sports athletes perform to a relatively high level, they are self-financing, so it is really a hobby for most, although, to be fair, we have begun to receive support from such as the Irish Sports Council and the Olympic Council of Ireland, which helps, and is also very welcome."

Morrish says that to Norwegians the thought of an Irish cross-country skier is about as improbable as a Norwegian hurler would be to us, and while the chances of him ever winning anything are as unlikely as Leitrim winning an All-Ireland, his real aim is to promote winter sports in Ireland.

"I'm trying to get people interested, and there is no real reason why Ireland cannot produce skiers in the same way it produces other sportsmen and women that can compete with the world's best.

"You don't need to have snow all year round. You can do your base training in Ireland and then go to the snow to learn about technique and so on.

"I mean, when you've got teams from places like Brazil and Algeria coming to the Winter Olympics, then what's so preposterous about Irish people taking part. We may have a small representation, but it is something to build on and something we can become successful at."

He will be happy, he says, if he manages to break his personal best for the distance at these games, and reckons that a time in the region of 43 minutes for the 15km distances would be good.

However, there are things which come into play in cross-country skiing which don't normally in track events, and Morrish says what while it is easy for a normal athlete simply to put their running shoes on before taking off, skiers face different challenges.

"A lot will depend on the type of course it is and how level or otherwise it might be. There is the snow as well, and it could turn out to be fast or slow snow, depending on conditions.

"We will also be at an altitude of 1500m, and that will have an effect, so there is a lot of preparation to do."

One crucial element of those preparations will be 'a good wax,' and Morrish reveals this involves the waxing of the skis to ensure the smoothest possible passage through the snow.

A good 'wax man' is essential, and this time around Morrish will have a Swedish expert looking after his tech support.

It could be the difference between him attaining the personal best time he craves, or ending up looking silly.

"I will not be on the podium one way or another, but I have no doubt the Olympic experience will be very special, and if my being there will encourage others to follow, then the purpose will have been served."

 

What's so preposterous about Irish participation?

skiingBy Declan Colley
TO MOST Irish people the term 'a good wax' has more to do with hirsute people getting a makeover at the beautician, but for 38-year-old Rory Morrish it will mean the difference between a fast or a slow time in his Winter Olympics 15k freestyle cross-country bid.

Morrish is part of Ireland's four-strong team which will take part in the 2006 Winter Games which opens in Turin this week, and while he will openly admit that the team are not travelling in the expectation of bringing home any medals, he is delighted to be part of Ireland's burgeoning interest in winter sports.

To the relief of many, the Irish have not gone down the road of the tabloid-friendly, but woefully incompetent Eddie 'the Eagle' Edwards, Britain's laughable ski jumper who, it could be claimed, nearly ruined the careers of many serious British skiers, skaters and sledders people who were trying hard against the odds to break into the ranks of serious winter sportsmen and women, but got caught up in the fall-out from Edwards' deplorable self-publicity.

But, while the Irish may not be entertaining any real podium aspirations, they are determined to make their mark in their various disciplines with the intention of bringing winter sports to a broader Irish audience and encouraging others to follow in their footsteps.

Morrish's interest in cross-country skiing reckoned by many to be one of the most physically demanding of any sport only began five years ago when he moved from his native Cork to Norway as part of his work with a Swedish company.

A keen orienteering disciple, along with brother and six sisters (including former international runner Fionnuala), before he left Ireland, he was keen on keeping up his outdoor interests when he went to Norway, but as cross-country skiing is almost a complete obsession, and far and away the country's national sport in Norway, it was probably only natural he became interested.

"I started off doing ski-orienteering and progressed from there into cross-country racing," he says, adding that in a culture so different from that of his native land, and where there is little or no midweek socialising, the best way of getting to know people is either by going to the gym or taking to the forests and going skiing.

"I was not exactly a fresh young thing starting off at 33-years-of-age, but after a few races I realised I was not too bad at it, and I took it from there."

His biggest challenge was mastering the sport's unique technique, and he says that while there have been those in the sport who advocated brute strength as the primary route to success, the opposite has more often been proven the correct way to go.

"You have to be in good condition for this sport, no doubt, because it involves getting the most from every part of your body, and you also need a big heart and lung capacity.

"But technique is the main thing, and you have to master the sport's two main styles the running style, or the skating style, the latter of which is probably the fastest."

For Morrish though, representing Ireland as an international cross-country skier is no bundle of laughs and he has, over the years, struggled to keep pace with the best.

"The thing is that winter sports have no real profile in Ireland, so you're on your own out there. Since I began I've been the skier, the tech support guy, the coach and the masseur all rolled into one. All the Irish people out there involved in winter sports are trying to make an Irish imprint and also to try and stir up interest in Ireland.

"We do have a profile in some of the better known sports like downhill racing, thanks to Kirsty McGarry, and her sister before her, Tamsin, who was at the last Olympics in Salt Lake City.

"And, of course, Clifton Wrottesley very nearly won a medal at those games in the skeleton event on the bobsleigh run and that stirred up a lot of interest.

"But while most of our winter sports athletes perform to a relatively high level, they are self-financing, so it is really a hobby for most, although, to be fair, we have begun to receive support from such as the Irish Sports Council and the Olympic Council of Ireland, which helps, and is also very welcome."

Morrish says that to Norwegians the thought of an Irish cross-country skier is about as improbable as a Norwegian hurler would be to us, and while the chances of him ever winning anything are as unlikely as Leitrim winning an All-Ireland, his real aim is to promote winter sports in Ireland.

"I'm trying to get people interested, and there is no real reason why Ireland cannot produce skiers in the same way it produces other sportsmen and women that can compete with the world's best.

"You don't need to have snow all year round. You can do your base training in Ireland and then go to the snow to learn about technique and so on.

"I mean, when you've got teams from places like Brazil and Algeria coming to the Winter Olympics, then what's so preposterous about Irish people taking part. We may have a small representation, but it is something to build on and something we can become successful at."

He will be happy, he says, if he manages to break his personal best for the distance at these games, and reckons that a time in the region of 43 minutes for the 15km distances would be good.

However, there are things which come into play in cross-country skiing which don't normally in track events, and Morrish says what while it is easy for a normal athlete simply to put their running shoes on before taking off, skiers face different challenges.

"A lot will depend on the type of course it is and how level or otherwise it might be. There is the snow as well, and it could turn out to be fast or slow snow, depending on conditions.

"We will also be at an altitude of 1500m, and that will have an effect, so there is a lot of preparation to do."

One crucial element of those preparations will be 'a good wax,' and Morrish reveals this involves the waxing of the skis to ensure the smoothest possible passage through the snow.

A good 'wax man' is essential, and this time around Morrish will have a Swedish expert looking after his tech support.

It could be the difference between him attaining the personal best time he craves, or ending up looking silly.

"I will not be on the podium one way or another, but I have no doubt the Olympic experience will be very special, and if my being there will encourage others to follow, then the purpose will have been served."