Olympic Federation of Ireland: €200,000 for eight athletes

Today, 5 December 2023, the Olympic Federation of Ireland has announced the recipients of the Milano Cortina 2026 Olympic Scholarships, with a total pot of almost €200,000 to be distributed to eight athletes to help them prepare for the next Winter Olympic Games to be held in Italy in 2026. 

The athletes represent seven different disciplines and are a mix of experienced Olympians and up-and-coming winter athletes. Funded by the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Olympic Solidarity Programme, the scholarships are designed to provide financial support to athletes aiming to qualify for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games. 

The grants can be used by athletes to contribute towards a wide range of performance-related items such as travel, competition, accommodation, coaching and medical insurance. They will run from November 2023 to February 2026, and the total amount is $209,888 (USD), which will be split equally between the scholarship recipients and paid in three annual instalments.

Making the announcement, Team Ireland's Chef de Mission for the Milano Cortina Olympic Games, Nancy Chillingworth, said: "We are delighted to announce the scholarship recipients. These bursaries are key to helping our winter athletes prepare for the Games, especially as we approach the qualification period for the Milano Cortina Olympic Winter Games, which starts next year."

One of the eight recipients is Cormac Comerford. © Sportsfile
One of the eight recipients is Cormac Comerford. © Sportsfile

The recipients of the Milano Cortina 2026 scholarships are:

-Brendan Doyle (Skeleton)
Dublin-born skeleton athlete with his sights set on Milano Cortina 2026. He narrowly missed out on qualifying for both the Beijing 2022 Games, and the Pyeongchang 2018 Games. The Skeleton is a winter sliding sport in which the athlete rides a small sled down a frozen track while lying face down and head first.

-Claire Dooley (Dual Moguls)
Raised in Brisbane, Claire trains in Whistler and competes in moguls, a freestyle style of skiing that combines speed and technical ability on a steep, heavily mogulled course. In dual moguls, athletes compete side by side.

-Cormac Comerford (Alpine Skiing)
He started skiing at Kilternan Ski Club at the age of eight and has since risen through the ranks to compete with the best on the international circuit. Cormac narrowly missed out on qualifying for both Pyeongchang 2018 and Beijing 2022 and has had some of his best results in recent months.

-Elle Murphy (Alpine Skiing)
Previously competed at the Sarajevo 2019 European Youth Olympic Festival and also spent time training for the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Games as a guide for a visually impaired skier. Originally from Colorado, her Irish connection is through her Dublin-born father.

-Elsa Desmond (Luge)
She is the first Irish athlete to compete in the sport of luge at the Olympic Games and has qualified for Beijing 2022. The English-born doctor has roots in both Cavan and Cork, and is passionate about developing the luge scene in Ireland. Luge is a high-speed gliding sport in which the athlete lies face-up, feet first, and travels at high speeds. It is the fastest sport in the Olympic Winter Games.

Comerford aiming for first Olympics in 2026. © Sportsfile
Comerford aiming for first Olympics in 2026. © Sportsfile

-Liam O'Brien (Speed Skating)
Born in Sydney, Liam now lives and trains in South Korea, and his mother is from Kingscourt, Cavan. Liam missed out on Beijing 2022 by one place and has his sights set on Milano Cortina.

-Seamus O'Connor (Snowboard Freestyle)
He is aiming to become the first athlete to represent Ireland at four Winter Olympics. The California-born snowboarder has his roots in Drogheda and competes in the freestyle events - in Beijing he competed in the halfpipe, an event in which athletes compete on a half-pipe of snow, performing tricks that are judged on difficulty, execution, height and style

-Thomas Maloney Westgaard (Cross Country Skiing)
Cross-country skier Thomas Maloney Westgaard is one of Ireland's top winter athletes. A two-time Olympian, he finished in the top 15 over 50km at the Beijing Olympics, the best sixth nation. Born in Norway, Thomas' mother is from Galway.