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'He's a very strong person' - Olympics-bound Saskia Tidey on father's IRA kidnap ordeal

The former Quinnsworth supermarket boss was rescued from Derrada Wood, Ballinamore in Leitrim 33 years ago

Saskia Tidey pictured during a photo shoot in Dublin yesterday.
Saskia Tidey pictured during a photo shoot in Dublin yesterday.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Updated at 10.52

RIO OLYMPICS-BOUND Irish sailor Saskia Tidey has hailed the influence of her “strong” father who was infamously kidnapped by the IRA in November 1983 and saved after almost a month of being held hostage.

Don Tidey, a former Quinnsworth supermarket boss, was rescued from Derrada Wood, Ballinamore in Leitrim 33 years ago, after a dramatic confrontation between his captors and gardai and soldiers.

A garda and a soldier were shot dead in the incident, which the then-Chairman and Chief Executive of the Associated British Food companies in the North and the Republic was caught up in.

Tidey had been kidnapped for 23 days, before being tracked down on 16 December following a Garda manhunt.

The businessman was previously captured after being threatened at gunpoint when his car was flagged down by a man he believed to be a garda.

Speaking at yesterday’s Irish Olympic Sailing Team Announcement, Saskia Tidey — who was born several years after the kidnapping and subsequent rescue act — paid tribute to her father’s strength of character.

He’s my dad and what I take out of it is that he’s a very strong person and someone who motivates me in sport, in life and in going out and achieving any dream that I have.

“My dad is one of my idols. I look up to him and he has always encouraged me to do whatever I felt and what I believe in doing. I’m very proud to be my dad’s daughter.

(1983) was a different time. Obviously I’ve grown up with it, but it’s not something I’ve been massively involved in.”

Tidey also credited her father with helping the 23-year-old athlete to achieve her dream of qualifying for the Olympics.

“I’m so proud to be at the Olympics and for him to see me there. He’s given me a huge insight into how to work as a team and what has been successful for him — I can draw some experience from that.

He’s a very keen sportsman. He’s 81 now and he’s still running round and very active. That to me is a massive motivation.

“He’s not (going to Rio). (My parents) were out with me three weeks ago at our last training camp to have a look at the venue. But they’ll stay back for the Olympics and watch it on TV.”

Saskia Tidey Sailors for Team Ireland, including Tidey, were officially announced yesterday ahead of Rio 2016. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Dubliner Tidey, a former netball international who only took up sailing competitively in 2008, will represent Ireland in the 49erFX along with Andrea Brewster — an East Hampshire-born sailor who made the switch to represent Ireland from Britain in 2013, as her mother’s side of the family hail from Schull in West Cork.

The Glenageary native says there are “10 to 15″ realistic medal contenders in her event, though she is not ruling out the possibility of the pair springing a surprise and bringing home some silverware.

(Andrea and I) joined up in 2013. We’re a relatively new team in comparison to some of the girls who have been sailing together who we’re competing against.

“Rio’s a very difficult venue to sail in and the race isn’t over until you cross that finish line. We’ve proven in the past that we can put in some top 10 results.

Our biggest goal now for the Olympics is really to be consistent. If we have a consistent week, yes there’s a possibility (of a medal), but our main focus is the process and to try to bring home (positive) results.”

The duo’s dream of reaching Rio 2016 almost ended in devastating circumstances, however.

After they appeared to seal their place at the Olmpics with a 14th place finish in the 2015 World Championships, their success was thrown into doubt after a rules protest threatened to scupper their hopes of qualification.

It seemed everything would hinge on how they performed at a subsequent regatta in Mallorca, although Algeria’s withdrawal meant the pair were then handed a wildcard entry to Brazil anyway.

Tidey, who has ambitions to go into gym management and personal training ultimately, is upbeat when reflecting on what was undoubtedly a frustrating and anxiety-ridden wait to discover their fate.

“We believe as a team that everything happens for a reason and it made us fight back even harder than before. And so we’ve proved why we should be at the Olympics.”

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Paul Fennessy

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