The 11th edition of the European Youth Olympic Winter Festival (EYOWF) has got under way in Braşov, Romania. There are four Irish competitors.
Lit in Athens last week, the Olympic Torch arrived in the Brasov Region carried by two exceptional ambassadors of Romanian sport, Olympic champions Violeta Beclea Szekely and Laura Badea.
Having passed through Predal, where the cross-country skiing and snowboard events will be held, the flame went on to Râşnov, where the ski-jumping competitions will take place at the very modern Valea Cărbunării venue. It was Constatin Vladea, 90, a competitor at the St Moritz Olympic Winter Games in 1948, who, deeply moved, had the honour of remitting the Torch to the mayor. Then the Torch travelled to Brasov, where it was lit by Romica Pop-Dâmboianu, 94, a many times over figure skating champion, and where it was taken into custody by the city’s mayor, George Scripcaru,
IOC President Jacques Rogge, who is the founder of the EYOWF, addressed the packed arena and welcomed the young athletes to the festival along with Ireland’s Patrick Hickey, President of the EOC, who also addressed the audience.
After the official ceremony including the lighting of the Olympic Flame, the athletes got a taste of what an Opening Ceremony would be like at an Olympic Winter Games when they were treated to an energetic steel drum act, freestyle skiers and snow boarders before Romanian singer Inna closed the show.
The Olympic Council of Ireland has chosen four young downhill skiers to represent Ireland at the European Winter Youth Olympics and we will bring you news of the Irish results later in the week.
All four are members of Snowsports Association Ireland and a couple will be hoping for good performances and a chance to increase their Team Ireland selection prospects for the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in a year’s time.
Florence Bell (age 16) based in Great Britain has been training with the FIS development team in Italy since November and represented Ireland at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games two years ago in Innsbruck.
She started competitive ski racing at 12 and has had some very encouraging results in recent seasons – in January , Florence won the overall combined champion and combined champion under 18 in the British Schoolgirls
Championships in Flaine,France, an event in which sister Victoria was the combined champion in the Under 21 age group.
Kristen Sweeney (age 17) hails from Westport, Connecticut and has strong Irish family links in Co. Tyrone. She first put on skis at the age of two and has trained at the renowned Green Mountain Valley Ski Academy in Vermont. Kristen makes her Team Ireland debut following impressive performances at FIS events in the USA.
Cormac Comerford (age 16) is a Dubliner and a student at Newpark Comprehensive School, Blackrock. He is one of the most promising juniors in Ireland and a member of the Ski Club of Ireland based at Kilternan. He competed at the World Schools Ski championships in Italy last year.
Luke Riddell (age 16) from London has family connections in Co. Down and is one of the top ten juniors on the UK ski racing scene. He trains at the Ambition Ski Academy in Italy
Over 1,300 competitors will attend the Winter Youth Olympic Games, which are the major junior ski championships on the European scene this year.
Team Ireland: Florence Bell (Slalom & Grand Slalom); Kristen Sweeney (Slalom & Grand Slalom); Cormac Comerford (Slalom & Grand Slalom), Luke Riddell (Slalom & Grand Slalom), Alan Hamilton (Chef de Mission – Snowsports Association Ireland), Diego Schmalzl (Coach), Nessa Smyth (Physiotherapist).