Ireland’s “Cool Runnings” star Kieran Behan

Updated: January 12, 2012

“Some sports look easy. Gymnastics ain’t one of them. Graceful, aesthetically pleasing, superbly controlled? Yes. The sort of caper at which anyone from the crowd could leap down and have a go without fracturing vertebrae? Absolutely not.

This is why gymnastics is one of the most popular Olympic sports. Whether we’re talking about artistic, rhythmic or the trampoline, gym doesn’t even give the impression of accessibility. This is a sport which demands and rewards absolute physical perfection. It combines the theatricality of the circus with the impossibility of a magic show. Plus it’s performed exclusively by hardbodies. What’s not to like?”

British journalist Dan Jones’ opening sentences in the “London Evening Standard” perfectly sum up a sport which millions of sports fans watch on TV on occasions like the World Championships or the Europeans and will be seen by billions around the world come London 2012. But for the athletes themselves this is indeed one of the most demanding of all sports.

Irish sports fans have this week – most for the first time – been learning about the exploits of Croydon-born Kieran Behan in his successful pursuit of a place in the 2012 Olympic Games. Today, Behan appears again at the North Greenwich Arena (02) in the Floors final of the Visa Gymnastics International, part of the “London Prepares” series so whilst Irish sports fans and administrators spent the night celebrating Behan’s fantastic achievement – and rightly so – let us not make the mistake of expecting too much, too soon.

No one, least of all Behan himself, his parents or coach Simon Gale expects miracles overnight. The really hard work begins NOW and let us remember that up to now, Behan and has family have spent huge sums of money, almost certainly in excess of the Euros 12,500 mentioned, to help him get here to the North Greenwich Arena and now to the Olympics itself. True there have been loyal sponsors like Stoi Athletic Wear (full credit to them) but now that Kieran has done Ireland proud, is it not time that Irish sponsors and Irish organisations realise his great potential and help fully fund him for future World and European Championships and hopefully for the 2016 Olympics in Rio?

Last night was not quite like any other for Behan and his support team – of course there were celebrations and many media interviews to attend to, many of whom had not even heard of Kieran Behan before this week but all of whom wanted to share news of his remarkable achievements with their readers or listeners . Irish fans though must not raise their expectations and expect miracles overnight – the road ahead will indeed need significant investments from Irish sports bodies. Congratulatory messages or Press Releases are all more than welcome but they don’t pay the bills for huge costs involved in travelling to and from major events, day to day training costs, hotel expenses not only for Behan but for the Irish delegation eg: Judges required and of course his coach(es).And much much more that mount up over a season.

So now let us celebrate what Kieran has achieved against all the odds this week but ensure that he and “Team Behan” are properly funded not only by the Irish Sports Council but also supported by sponsors. Without such funding Behan is unlikely to progress to the next step for he still faces a ‘monumental task’ in moving up the ladder particularly when up against gymnasts from countries who are able to provide huge funding to their athletes.. Behan has done Ireland proud this week – now let Ireland return the compliment and by acting quickly and not just by messages of support.

After the formal announcement of Behan’s qualification for the London Games, the 22 years old and his coach dealt admirably with scores of interviews throughout the evening and night. Here are just a few of the comments from Team Behan and the Irish sporting authorities last night.

Behan, was back in his hotel room planning today’s Floors final attempt when he heard the official announcement :

“I was just jumping around the room crying my eyes out. I was just so
chuffed. It really is a dream come true,”

“To think years and years ago I was told ‘you’re never going to be
able to walk again let alone do gymnastics’ to find out I’m going to
the Olympic Games is something that dreams are made of,” he added

“To come from all that and everything that’s happened with injuries
I’ve got the luck of the Irish on my side most definitely.

“I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for my friends and family and
coaches and everyone who has stuck around and been there supporting

“I’m going to try and max out my speciality piece which is my floor,”
he went on . “I’ve definitely got the execution I just need a little bit
more on my start value now and that would be the main objective for

“It’s going to be fantastic to represent Ireland and do six pieces at
the Olympic Games. It is what dreams are made of.”

“I would like to thank my family, coaches and club for helping me through to
this point. Winning 3 world cup medals on floor and being crowned
overall World Cup Series Floor Champion has been amazing. Then Floor
final at this event and now Olympic qualification. I’m over the moon.”

Ciaran Gallagher, CEO at Gymnastics Ireland, said: “It’s been 16 years
since Ireland last had a gymnast at an Olympic Games – by qualifying
for London 2012 Kieran Behan has put Ireland back on the Olympic map.

Our organisation has been going through a radical modernisation
overhaul since 2006 to build a governing body that can really drive
the sport forward.

We have made great strides in the past number of
years, albeit in extremely difficult economic conditions, and the last
piece of the puzzle was recently put in place with the launch of our
Performance & Technical programme going into 2012, with this came
an internal restructure and the appointment of Sally Filmer as
Gymnastics Ireland’s Performance &
Technical Manager.

“Kieran Behan has delivered for our sport in Ireland an Irish
representative at the top performance
sporting event on the planet. Gymnastics Ireland, in particular
through Performance & Technical
Manager Sally Filmer, is looking forward to working with and
supporting Kieran and his coaching team
with his preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games.”

“As one of the largest Olympic sports in Ireland, Kieran’s
qualification will inspire the next generation of
gymnasts in Ireland to aim for 2016 & beyond and further establish an
identity of gymnastics in the
minds of the general public as an Irish sport.

“Congratulations to Kieran, his coaching team & the delegation at the
Test Event – you have done us all proud.

“Finally – the best of luck to Kieran in the Floor Final!”

Sally Filmer, Performance and Technical Manager at Gymnastics Ireland
has been working closely with
Kieran over the past months and along with his coaching team they
devised a strategy for competition

Sally Filmer said: “A fantastic job by Kieran securing his Olympic
place. This has come of the back of a
fantastic year with such high achievements being made by Kieran in the
World Cups. He is such an
inspiration to sport as he has overcome so many obstacles. His
strength of character has shone through
and really shows that competing isn’t only about the physical ability
but also the mental capacities. We
are looking forward to the preparation now-such an exciting start to 2012.”

Coach, Simon Gale, said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to bits, it’s
absolutely incredible. We consider this an amazing achievement,
especially when you consider so many other Countries having a stronger
pedigree in gymnastics and haven’t got this far.”

As we revealed here in articles last year and in recent weeks, Kieran trains for up to thirty hours a week at Tolworth Gymnastics
club in Surrey, coached by Simon Gale, Demetrios Bradshaw and Darren

According to Gymnastics Ireland website:
“Gymnastics is ever increasing in popularity in Ireland with currently approx. 12,000 direct members involved in the sport making us one of the largest Olympic sports in the country.

New clubs are springing up all over the country and our membership is growing every year so the future looks bright and full of opportunity!

Outside Gymnastics Ireland’s direct membership, gymnastics is a one of the few mandatory sports in the Physical Education curriculum in Ireland so we can be confident that the participation numbers, once you bear this in mind, far exceed the 12,000 direct members of our organisation! Gymnastics Ireland is committed to working within this system to build the sport for the future”.

The success of Behan together ith coverage of the Olympics Gymnastics will ensure that membership grows even more in the months ahead

All at SportsNewsIreland wish Kieran Behan every success in today’s Floors final and of course in the Olympic Games but above all let Ireland now step in with significant additional funding to take Kieran and Team Behan to the next step on a remarkable career by any standards.


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