It will come as no surprise to regular readers of Clongowes Digest to learn that Gary Skinner (Poetry) represented Ireland in February (12th to the 21st) at the Youth Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. He took part in four events, Super-G, Alpine Combined, Giant Slalom and Slalom where he reached speeds of 80 to 100 kilometres per hour as he descended the slopes.
The Headmaster, Mr Chris Lumb, congratulated Gary on his achievement in a sport that requires singular discipline and dedication. Noting that Gary is something of a seasoned campaigner at this stage, he wished him well in his future career and hoped that he would go on to even greater things.
In all, 71 nations competed in the Games in over 15 winter sport disciplines. Gary, from Terenure, Dublin – Ireland’s sole representative at the event – was pitted against others aged from sixteen to eighteen years. He took some time out from his busy schedule to tell Clongowes Digest what it was like…
The Youth Olympics took place in Lillehammer, Norway, with the alpine skiing events located in Hafjell. It was a great experience involving from all over the world. Around 55 racers took part in the Alpine Combined and Super-G and over 60 in the Slalom and Giant Slalom. The Super-G was the first event, followed by the Alpine combined the next day. Giant Slalom was on the Wednesday and Slalom on Friday.
The first race didn’t go to plan and I finished 45th. The alpine combined (combination of Super-G and Slalom) went better for me and I finished in 29th position. The Alpine Combined was on the Sunday so Monday and Tuesday were training days. Unfortunately, I crashed in the Giant Slalom, which would usually be my strongest event. I returned to training the next day and did the Slalom on Friday and came 33rd.
I found the Super-G event from the Alpine Combined the most enjoyable because I knew the discipline from the previous day and I improved by two seconds. It was great fun and it gave me a real buzz. The course length was 1570m and the vertical drop was 455m. I finished it in 1 minute and 17 seconds (6 seconds off the winner)
Gary – a member of the Ski Club of Ireland and the Leogang Ski Racing Club, Austria – began skiing at the National Snowsports Centre in Kilternan when he was just four years old. He has spent time in Australia and Austria during the past two years preparing for this event. Gary, who spent four days training in Austria before arriving in Norway on Thursday 11th, is an experienced competitor who has raced in the New Zealand Australia Cup, the Australian National Championships and various Citizen/FIS races in Europe last year.
Gary is no stranger to international competition; his first opportunity to ski for Ireland came in 2009 at the prestigious Borrufa Cup in Andorra. In October 2013 he competed in the International Dry Slope Irish Open Ski Championships in the Ski Club of Ireland, where he won in the under sixteen category by a margin of 3.43 seconds and finished in sixth place overall. More recently Gary represented Ireland at the Winter European Youth Olympic Festival in 2015 and Lillehammer was a big step up in the level of competition for him.