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Team Ireland targeting 'three to five medals' at Tokyo Olympics

The countdown to the 2020 games is very much underway.

Jack Woolley, who will represent Ireland at Taekwondo at the 2020 Olympics.
Jack Woolley, who will represent Ireland at Taekwondo at the 2020 Olympics.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

THE COUNTDOWN TO the 2020 Olympics is very much on, and Team Ireland are targeting three to five medals at the quadrennial games in Tokyo, according to Sport Ireland CEO John Treacy. 

The government today announced a €36 million investment in sport, with €9.4 million of that assigned to support High Performance programmes and participation at the 2020 Olympics. 

Another €2.43 million has gone to the International Carding Scheme, the programme under which Ireland’s elite athletes are funded. 

It is the largest amount of money ever invested in High Performance Sport in Ireland, and the total funding for the Tokyo games represents a 24% increase on the same figure for the Rio games of 2016. 

John Treacy credited the National Sports Policy, launched in 2018, as making the increased funding feasible. 

“It really is the National Sports Policy that has enabled funding to flow into sport, along with the hard work of the ministers [Shane Ross and Brendan Griffin].

“You have a policy and strategy, and that enables the government to invest in it.” 

Treacy believes that the venue for this year’s games makes the Irish medal target realistic. 

“Our target is to get three to five medals, that’s the expectation. When you look at the London Olympics, which was our most successful with six medals, it was a favourable environment for us as it was only an hour away.

“Rio was quite different. Tokyo is a long way away and a different culture, but I think Tokyo will be a different environment for competing in. I’ve been to Japan many times as an athlete and an official, and they do things second to none.

“I guarantee those games will be run extremely well, and athletes will be treated extremely well. It will be a very good environment for our athletes.”

These will be the first Olympics in which Sport Ireland and athletes will work with the new Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI) which replaced the old, Pat Hickey-led Olympic Council of Ireland. 

The OFI is led by President Sarah Keane – CEO of Swim Ireland – and CEO Peter Sherrard, once the Operations Director at the FAI. 

Treacy is anticipating a successful working relationship. 

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“The system has aligned now. The OFI are working closely with ourselves and the [Sport Ireland] Institute. The big issue was the continuity of care. In the past different physios could come in and work with athletes for the Olympic games, which makes no sense whatsoever.

“The Institute staff will be going as part of the Olympic team, so if you’re an athlete, you’ll be dealing with people you have been dealing with all of the time, which is really hugely important, and that’s a significant step.

“The Olympic Federation is well organised and thought-out, so I think it will work extremely well.”

The carding scheme was adapted last year to guarantee athletes their funding across two years, and while their grant could increase from year-to-year, it cannot be decreased. 

The highest bracket of funding is titled Podium, and is worth €40,000 annually.

There are 16 Irish Olympic-eligible being funded to this degree: Thomas Barr, Ciara Mageean, and Brendan Boyce (athletics); gymnast Rhys McGleneghan; boxers Kellie Harrington, Kurt Walker, Michaela Walsh, and Aoife O’Rourke; pentathlon duo Natalya Coyle and Arthur Lanigan O’Keefe; and a sextet of rowers: O’Donovan brothers Gary and Paul along with Sanita Puspure, Ronan Byrne, Philip Doyle and Fintan McCarthy. 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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