Ireland's Thomas Westgaard 'was seeing stars' in gruelling Winter Olympics debut

Ireland's Thomas Westgaard found his Winter Olympic debut harder than he ever imagined but was still proud to finish 60th in the gruelling 30km biathlon event in PyeongChang this morning.

“Despite that I didn't feel 100% I'm extremely proud to get my Olympic debut for Ireland. It's a big honour. I dreamed about this since I was 10 so this was a big day for me,” said the Norwegian born Irish cross-skier whose mother hails from Dunmore in Galway.

“The last 10k was like nothing I've ever experienced before, it was just horrendous,” he said. “But when you are able to finish in the Olympic spirit you just have to be proud.

“It was really windy so it was so important to be in a group to block the wind and unfortunately I wasn't able to be in group for the last 15km so I had to struggle in my own battle.

“In that third lap I just gave it everything. I was seeing stars. It was one of the most gruelling experiences I ever had.”

Westgaard has qualified for three more events in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea but said a recent illness has weakened him so, after a medical review, he will decide whether he will take part in all three. The 50km, on the final day's competition on 24 February, is his best event so he may concentrate on recovering fully for that.

Today's 30km, where skiers race in the classical style for the first 15km and then switch skis and ski freestyle for the second half, proved extremely tough and dramatic. It was raced in -9 degrees and there was a crash on the first corner and a second on the first lap. The winner, Sim Hegstad Krueger, recovered from a fall to lead Norway to a sensational clean sweep of the medals.

Earlier Clare skier Patrick McMillan saw his Winter Olympics debut put on hold after winds of up to 45mph forced the organisers to postpone the men's Downhill. It has been rescheduled to Thursday and, as a result, the men's Super-G – which is McMillan's other event – has been moved to Friday (16 Feb) which means he will now be racing on consecutive days.

But the Killaloe man was not perturbed, saying: “This is very normal. Skiing's an outdoor sport and, in Downhill we often have to wait for the weather.

“I'm actually happy because I've had three days of very good training on the course and now I can get a day's rest.”

Alpine skier Tess Arbez is next in action for Ireland, taking part in the Giant Slalom tomorrow at 4:45am-6-25am Irish time.

Only 25 Irish athletes have previously taken part in the Winter Olympics (19 men and 6 women). The first Irish team took part 20 years ago in Nagano, Japan.

Alpine skier Tess Arbez is next in action for Ireland, taking part in the Giant Slalom tomorrow at 1:15am Irish time.

- Digital desk


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