Ireland's next top Olympians? 12 athletes aiming for Tokyo 2020 awarded scholarships worth up to €23,000

12 Irish Olympic hopefuls have been awarded grants worth approximately €523 per month until Tokyo 2020, writes Stephen Barry.

The Olympic Solidarity Scholarships, worth up to €18,800 over three years, will assist the athletes’ qualification and preparations for the Tokyo Games, with an additional €4,180 available to cover travel costs for qualification events.

In addition, a €84,000 scholarship (€21,000 per year) has been awarded to the Irish Hockey Men’s National Team, who are bidding to reach a second successive Games.

The total value of the funding is up to €360,000, although funding will be cut-off for any athlete should they become ineligible to qualify for any reason.

Priority has been given to those not in receipt of other grants.

The athletes awarded scholarships are:

  • Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (Athletics Ireland), who is currently on scholarship at Villanova Unviersity and who competed earlier this year at the World Athletics Championships in London;
  • Nhat Nguyen (Badminton Ireland), a European U17 Gold Medallist and also medalled at the 2017 Poland Open, an event on the senior circuit;
  • Liam Jegou (Canoeing Ireland), who is a former U17 Vice World Champion;
  • Mark Downey (Cycling Ireland), a track and road cyclist who secured Ireland’s best ever finish at the U23 World Road Race Championships coming 9th;
  • Ian O’Sullivan (Irish Clay Pigeon Shooting Association), a former World Junior Champion and current 2017 Scottish Grand Prix Champion;
  • Cathal Daniels (Horse Sport Ireland), who to date has won 6 European Underage medals;
  • Leona Maguire (Irish Ladies Golfing Union), the World’s Leading Amateur Golfer for the last 3 years;
  • Rhys McClenaghan (Gymnastics Ireland), who is the reigning European Champion in the Pommel Horse as well as becoming the first Irish gymnast to ever win a Pommel Horse Medal at a World Cup event;
  • Megan Fletcher (Irish Judo), the Commonwealth Games Champion in 2014;
  • Denise Walsh (Rowing Ireland), who holds 17 National Rowing titles and won a silver medal at the 2017 European Championships;
  • Mona McSharry (Swim Ireland), who emerged on the national stage earlier this year with her Gold Medal in the 100m breaststroke at the World Junior Championships; and
  • Jack Woolley (Irish Taekwondo Union), who is now ranked 13th in the World in the 58kg Weight Category.

The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) was awarded eight of the 12 scholarships by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), but decided to invest an additional €140,000 to achieve the maximum of 12 scholarships under the scheme.

President of the OCI, Sarah Keane said: “We are delighted that we have secured funding from the IOC’s Olympic Solidarity Fund to support some of Ireland’s Olympic hopefuls and also that the OCI are in a position to invest some additional funds to bring the total number of athletes benefiting from the scholarship programme to 12.

“It is a testament to the work by the athletes themselves and those involved in Ireland’s sport performance programmes that we have such an exciting group of talented athletes across a range of different sports determined to represent Ireland at the Tokyo Olympic Games.”

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