Irish Olympians reflect on their experiences in Rio

Newstalk.com speaks to some of competitors who represented Ireland at the Games in Rio this summer

Maracana Stadium

Images: ©INPHO/James Crombie

Ireland enjoyed one of their greatest ever Olympic campaigns this year in Rio, when people from all corners of the island came together to represent the country.

Ireland's sailors, swimmers, runners and jumpers, their boxers, cyclists and horseback riders all performed to do the Emerald Isle proud on the Olympic stage.

We caught up with a small handful of those who flew the flag for Ireland, what it meant to them to perform at the Games and what 2017 has in store for them.

1) Oliver Dingley

How do you reflect on your year?

It was a whirlwind, a rollercoaster! It was amazing. There were so many highs and a few lows and ultimately it ended up at the Olympic Games. Got in the prelims, got into the semi-final and then found myself in an Olympic final.

It was absolutely amazing to share that with my coach, the whole team around me at the institute and my family. The support back home in Ireland was phenomenal.

How was your Olympic Experience?

Amazing. I was in the village for two and a half weeks. Unfortunately I was sent home just after I finished competing, but I was there for my full build-up going into the games. It was surreal. Some days I spent hours in the food hall, just speaking to anyone who would talk to me.

It was brilliant getting to meet new people. I got to go see different events and the opening ceremony was just amazing. Walking out in the Maracana is what dreams are made of. And then of course competing, that was all part of the fun.

Any Regrets?

I don’t have any regrets at all. It generally has been an amazing year. You make these different sacrifices and you take a few chances here and there. Luckily for me it’s all paid off, I can’t wait to build on what we built in 2016.

What has 2017 in store for you?

I’ve got big plans for 2017. It’s going to be a busy year. Because of where I finished in Rio, I qualified for an event called the World Series. This consists of the top eight divers in the world. We go around on a diving circuit around the world, so I’ll be taking part in that. I’ve also got the World Championships, so it’s going to be a busy year. Hopefully it won’t be finals, it’ll be medals.

2) Fiona Doyle

How do you reflect on your year?

It has been an exciting year, but definitely I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. It’s not been the year I expected. But, I mean, it was a good year. It just wasn’t what I expected.

How was your Olympic Experience?

That’s a hard one to answer. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and I’m glad that I got to go. I’m glad I can say I went to the Olympics and that I achieved my dream. But I’m still incredibly disappointed with my performance. That, for the moment, will cloud it a little bit.

I’m sure with time that will change, but for the moment I’m still a bit annoyed and disappointed.

Any Regrets?

No I don’t have any regrets. I think I did everything I possibly could leading up to the Olympics, to try and have a great Olympics. I tried to do everything to try and be the best that I could be. It was more down to circumstances that were out of my control, that I didn’t have the performance I was hoping for.

I didn’t expect to be in a car accident in October last year. I think that sort of hindered some of my training plans. I did the best I could leading up to it so no, I don’t have any regrets.

What has 2017 in store for you?

Honestly, I have no idea. It comes down to a lot of factors. I’m excited for something new, but I don’t really know what that new is. I don’t know what 2017 holds but I’m looking forward to seeing what happens. I’m just as in the dark as everyone else.

3) David Harte

How do you reflect on your year?

The year as a whole was probably one of the busiest we get in our lives. I think it’s the biggest year hockey has had in Ireland, which is fantastic. The amount of games we played and being able to prepare within Ireland, it was great to have that home support.
Looking back on the preparation for the Games, we just wanted to tick all the boxes to make sure we did everything within our power for the Olympics.

We played to our world ranking during that time, which was 12 and then shot up two places to the highest ranking that we ever had in Ireland which is sitting in the top 10. Looking back you’d have to say 2016 was quite a memorable year.

How was your Olympic Experience?

I’d have to say it was life-changing in some respects. Every athletes golden aspiration is to go and compete at an Olympic Games. For us it became a reality in August. We went over there truly unaware of what we could expect from the Olympics being held in South America for the first time and in a country like Brazil.

We all came away with amazing memories and certainly ones that will last a lifetime.

Any Regrets?

I wouldn’t say there are any regrets, I just think when you look back it’s the disappointment from certain games in particular.

Coming to the Olympic Games of course, there was probably the disappointing fact that we didn’t achieve our goal of getting out of the pool stage and getting to the quarter-final stage.

The game against India, the fact that we didn’t get a win or a draw there that would have set us up nicely for a shot at qualifying for the quarter-final.

I don’t think there were regrets in any respect, but just a bit of disappointment looking at the outcome of Rio.

What has 2017 in store for you?

A lot of people were saying that after 2016 that we were all set up for a quiet one this year, but that certainly won’t be the case.

We start training camp in January with the Irish team in Spain, playing some test matches over there and getting prepared for World League, round two [hosted in Ireland at the start of March]. That’s essentially the start of our World Cup qualifier. The World Cup is on in 2018 in India, I don’t think Ireland have been in it for about 30 or 40 years.

Also in August we’ve got the European Championships in Amsterdam in Holland.

4) Seamus Power 

How do you reflect on your year?

It’s been a crazy year for me, if someone who would have told me I’d be in this position 12 months ago it would have been incredibly difficult to believe. Getting to the Olympics and my PGA Tour Card makes this year the most successful of my career so far.

All I want to do now is build on it going forward now and see if I can keep improving.

The two were such completely different experiences. The Olympics was so special and something I’ll never forget.

How was your Olympic Experience?

The PGA Tour is something I’ve always been working for over the years, but I think the Olympics was a more special experience.

Walking out during that opening ceremony behind that Irish flag is something I can’t even describe. I’ll tell everyone that.

Any Regrets?

I don’t have any regrets. Obviously you’d like to play better here and there, but you can’t always control that. You just learn from your mistakes and you practice hard and surround yourself with the right people. I feel like I’ve done that.

But would I like to take a couple of tee shots or a couple of rounds back here or there? Absolutely.

Disappointments are part of any career, especially a golf career.

What has 2017 in store for you?

I’m really looking forward to the Pebble Beach tournament. After seeing it over the last couple of years, it seems like an incredible setting for a tournament.

My aim is to establish myself on the PGA Tour and earn enough FedEx Cup points to survive. Every week will be an exciting week.

5) Scott Evans

How do you reflect on your year?

The goals that I set at the beginning of the year and that I set at the end of last year to see how I got on. One of the main goals was qualifying for the for RIo and I did that.

I set goals for myself for how I wanted to train especially up to the Olympics and after Rio I was quite satisfied with how everything worked out.

I was quite satisfied with the last couple of weeks after reaching the final in the Irish Open, it was a great way to finish the year off.

How was your Olympic Experience?

I had a great time and obviously that goes down to the results and performing well. It makes such a big difference to the experience, I was in Beijing and London and lost in the first round both times.

Of course you have a great time, it’s fantastic to be there, but again, the main reason for being there is to perform as well as I can. I don’t think you could enjoy it as much as you do without good results.

I experienced that this time around and I played very, very well. The atmosphere in the Irish camp was brilliant and the atmosphere between us and the badminton team was very, very good. It was a fantastic experience all round.

Any Regrets?

I had some trouble at the beginning of the year with some injuries and mentally I could have put myself in a better place.

Injury-wise, I think I came back too early. It was bothering me the whole time. I should have taken a bit more time off. But, in the timeframe that you’re in, you don’t have a chance to do it. If it was a different year I’d be able to take a little longer.

Mentally with stuff like this, it takes weeks to turn yourself around.

What has 2017 in store for you?

I’ll just continue training as I have been. One of the goals I would be aiming for is to medal in April in the Europeans. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.

At the moment it’s just a case of keeping injury free, staying in shape and keeping on top mentally as well.

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You can read the views of some of Ireland's Paralympic athletes here, as they look back on 2016.