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Despite Adversity Irish Ice Skating Forged Ahead In 2021

The pandemic continued to disrupt activities in 2021 both on and off the ice, but Irish ice skating has also displayed its resilience throughout the past 12 months.

In January, it was announced that unfortunately the Irish National Figure Skating Championships would not take place in 2021. At the end of the month, Liam O’Brien made his debut in an Irish racing suit at the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Gdansk, Poland where he placed 25th overall. This was the highest ever placement for an Irish short track speed skater at an ISU Championships.

O’Brien raced again at the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in March in Dordrecht, the Netherlands. His overall championship classification of 29th was the highest placement ever by an Irish skater in the history of the event and also secured two spots for Ireland in the men’s category at the 2022 Championships.

In May, O’Brien was also the recipient of an Olympic Federation of Ireland Beijing 2022 Individual Performance Support award.

Eight figure skaters and six speed skaters were named to the National Team in July.

After the cancellation of the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating in 2020, Dillon Judge and Sophia Tkacheva were finally able to make their debuts in the series back in September in Kosice, Slovakia. Towards the end of the month, Conor Stakelum participated in the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, the final qualifying competition for the 2022 Beijing Olympics, where he finished 29th. An EGM and an AGM were both held virtually during the month.

Judge return to the Junior Grand Prix circuit in October where he was joined by Elizabeth Golding to compete in the final stage of the series in Linz, Austria. In the middle of the month, Sam McAllister returned to the ice for the first time in over a year and finished 11th at the Budapest Trophy in Hungary. Sean McAnuff and Liam O’Brien got to try out Olympic ice at the test event in Beijing, China which was the first of four World Cup competition to decide quota places for the Games. The Irish short track speed skaters travelled to Nagoya, Japan the following week for the second World Cup.

November began with a team of five Irish figure skaters competing at the Tayside Trophy in Dundee, Scotland. Robyn Foster made her international debut for Ireland in the Junior Women’s category where she finished seventh with Tkacheva in tenth. Judge was second in the Junior Men’s event with Stakelum and McAllister tenth and eleventh respectively in the Senior Men’s division. O’Brien was back racing in the third World Cup in Debrecen, Hungary and was joined for the fourth in Dordrecht, the Netherlands by Ryan McAnuff. At the end of the month, it was announced that sadly the Emerald Skate learn to skate courses would be postponed for a second consecutive year.

McAllister, Stakelum and Judge rounded out the year at the Santa Claus Cup in Budapest, Hungary in December. The announcement of the selection of McAllister to represent Ireland at the 2022 ISU European Figure Skating Championships in Tallinn, Estonia early next year was also made during the month.

While the pandemic is still an ongoing concern as we head into the New Year and the health and safety of our members remains our priority, the ISAI is hopeful that 2022 will see a resumption of our normal activities.

 

McAnuff and O’Brien Halfway Through Beijing Olympic Qualifying Journey

Sean McAnuff (24) and Liam O’Brien (22) have reached the midpoint of their quest to qualify quota places for Ireland at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games with the conclusion of racing at the second ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating of the season in Nagoya, Japan.

McAnuff and O’Brien took to the ice on the opening of competition in the 1500m heats and 500m preliminaries. McAnuff was first up in Heat 2 of the 1500m in which he finished 6th in a time of 2:23.958. He finished 73rd for the distance. O’Brien originally finished 6th in Heat 10 in a time of 2:29.293, but due to being impeded by another skater during the race he was advanced to the quarterfinals. He finished 4th in the 1500m quarterfinals in a time of 2:24.694 which meant he was assigned to the 1500m ranking finals later on in the week.

Later on the same day, McAnuff and O’Brien were back for the 500m preliminaries in the Nippon Gaishi Hall. Liam O’Brien raced in Heat 4 and crossed the line in 3rd place. Unfortunately, due to a rule infringment, he received a penalty and he was classified 83rd for the distance. McAnuff was up in Heat 10 where he finished in in 4th place in a time of 44.761 and in 61st place overall.

On the second day of the event, McAnuff and O’Brien were drawn in back to back heats of the 1000m preliminaries. McAnuff drew Heat 3 and he came in 5th in a time of 1:29.642. He was followed by O’Brien in Heat 4 who clocked a time of 1:33.046 to wind up 4th. McAnuff and O’Brien were ranked 69th and 62nd respectively for the distance.

The 1500m ranking finals was the last action for Team Ireland on Day Three of the World Cup. O’Brien recorded a time of 2:33.357 to place 7th in Heat 2 and was classified 35th for the distance.

After the first two World Cups, the current World Cup Classification for the Irish skaters in each distance is as follows:

Sean McAnuff – 500m (71st), 1000m (70th), 1500m (56th)

Liam O’Brien – 500m (60th), 1000m (60th), 1500m (45th)

The 2021/2022 World Cup Short Track Speed Skating will continue in just under three weeks time when the circuit moves to Europe with stages in Debrecen, Hungary (18-21 November) and Dordrecht, Netherlands (25-28 November).

Second Stage Of Olympic Qualifying Beckons For McAnuff And O’Brien in Japan

This weekend Sean McAnuff and Liam O’Brien continue their pursuit for 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic quota places at the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating in Nagoya, Japan (28-31 October).

McAnuff and O’Brien will be racing from tomorrow (28 October) inside the Nippon Gaishi Arena. First up will be the 1500m heats and quarterfinals which will be followed later in the day by 500m preliminaries and heats. On Friday (29 October) the 1000m preliminaries and heats will take place. Subsequent rounds and finals will be held on Saturday (30 October) and Sunday (31 October).

For McAnuff and O’Brien, the goal will be to progress as far as they can in each distance to accumulate ranking points at each World Cup event. There are 32 Olympic quota places in the 500m and 1000m distances and 36 in the 1500m on offer. Full rules of the Olympic qualifying procedures can be viewed here.

After the first World Cup in Beijing, China last weekend, the current World Cup Classification for the Irish skaters in each distance is as follows:

Sean McAnuff – 500m (63rd), 1000m (58th), 1500m (43rd)

Liam O’Brien – 500m (53rd), 1000m (48th), 1500m (33rd)

The ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating will be streamed live on the ISU Skating YouTube channel. The event can also be followed on social media via the #ShortTrackSkating hashtag.

Schedule (Irish time)

28 October

02:30 1500m Heats
05:06 1500m Quarterfinals
07:44 500m Preliminaries
09:14 500m Heats

29 October

03:37 1000m Preliminaries
05:32 1000m Heats

30 October

03:06 1500m Ranking Finals
03:47 500m Ranking Finals
06:20 1500m Semifinals
07:13 1500m Finals
08:02 500m Quarterfinals
08:40 500m Semifinals
09:17 500m Finals

31 October

01:17 1000m Ranking Finals
05:19 1000m Quarterfinals
06:00 1000m Semifinals
06:40 1000m Finals

McAnuff and O’Brien Set Personal Bests At Beijing Olympic Test Event

Team Ireland short track speed skaters Sean McAnuff (24) and Liam O’Brien (22) have concluded competing at the opening ISU World Cup in China, the first step on the road to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, with each athlete setting a new personal best at the event on what will become Olympic ice in February next year.

On the opening day of competiton, McAnuff and O’Brien lined up for the opening rounds of the 1500m and 500m distances. In Heat 2 of the 1500m heats, O’Brien initially finished fourth in a time of 2:24.378. However, following a review by race officials, an American skater who finished ahead O’Brien was penalised and the Irishman was advanced to the quarterfinals. McAnuff drew to race in Heat 5 and this turned out to be the swiftest of the fourteen 1500m heats in Beijing. He finished fourth in a time of 2:17.035 smashing his own personal best by three seconds even though it was not enough to advance any further. It did garner him an overall placement for the distance of 43rd and two World Cup ranking points. O’Brien came back for the 1500m quarterfinals and raced in Heat 7 coming in fifth with a time of 2:22.455 meaning he would race again in the ranking finals on Day Three of the event.

In the afternoon of Day One, McAnuff and O’Brien were back on the ice for the 500m preliminaries. McAnuff raced in Heat 4 and finished fifth in a time of 43.416 giving him an overall distance classification of 71st. O’Brien came third in Heat 8 with a new personal best time of 42.608 which unfortunately was not sufficient to move on to subsequent rounds and he finished overall in 47th place.

There was a lighter schedule on Day Two of the World Cup with just the 1000m preliminaries to be contested. O’Brien was first up in Heat 4 where he finished fifth in a time of 1:27.858 which was very close to his personal best. He ended up classified in 68th place for the distance. McAnuff took third in Heat 15 with a time of 1:28.911 just missing out on progressing as a fastest third place finisher. He ranked 47th overall for the distance and completed his racing for this World Cup.

On Day Three, O’Brien started in Heat 2 of the 1500m ranking finals. He was in the mix for most of the race, but he was impeded by a Croatian skater with just over three laps to go and crashed into the padding. He got back up and finished in a time of 2:55.839 for sixth place in the heat. He did earn twelve world ranking points for 33rd place in the standings.

McAnuff and O’Brien travel next to Nagoya, Japan to compete in the second ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating of the season this coming weekend (28-31 October).

“There are lots of positives to take into next week in Nagoya,” O’Brien said. “Hopefully, I can build on the results this week and work towards qualifying Ireland a spot at the upcoming Olympics.”

“I am very excited to see that my skating has improved over the last year of training,” McAnuff said. “This World Cup was my first time racing in 20 months, but I feel it gave me the chance to get back into a racing mentality, practice my strategies, and continue to learn for the next World Cup in Japan.”

McAnuff and O’Brien Embark On Quest For Beijing Spots

Short track speed skaters Sean McAnuff (24) and Liam O’Brien (22) begin their journey this weekend to secure quota places for Ireland at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games at the first of four ISU World Cup events.

McAnuff and O’Brien will be racing from tomorrow (21 October) at the Olympic test event inside the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing, China. First up will be the 1500m heats and quarterfinals which will be followed later on in the day by 500m preliminaries and heats. On Friday (22 October) the 1000m preliminaries and heats will take place. Subsequent rounds and finals will be held on Saturday (23 October) and Sunday (24 October).

For McAnuff and O’Brien, the goal will be to progress as far as they can in each distance in order to accumulate ranking points at each World Cup event. There are 32 Olympic quota places in the 500m and 1000m distances and 36 in the 1500m on offer. Full rules of the Olympic qualifying procedures can be viewed here.

“My goals for the upcoming World Cups are to give my best effort at everything I do,” McAnuff said. “I want to go through these Olympic qualfiers with a positive attitude and outlook regardless of my results. I hope to meet new athletes and connect with old friends and encourage them in their racing and training efforts. I would love to see us athletes enjoy and take part in our speed skating community in a fun and encouraging way that supports each of us and all the hard work we have put in leading up to this point.”

“I am looking forward to competing at the first World Cup here in Beijing tomorrow,” O’Brien said. “I hope to be able to skate strong and work towards qualifying Ireland a spot at the upcoming Winter Olympics.”

The ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating will be streamed live on the ISU Skating YouTube channel. The event can also be followed on social media via the #ShortTrackSkating hashtag.

Schedule (Irish time)

21 October

03:40 1500m Heats
06:16 1500m Quarterfinals
08:44 500m Preliminaries
10:11 500m Heats

22 October

04:47 1000m Preliminaries
06:38 1000m Heats

23 October

03:16 1500m Ranking Finals
04:17 500m Ranking Finals
07:20 1500m Semifinals
08:13 1500m Finals
09:02 500m Quarterfinals
09:40 500m Semifinals
10:17 500m Finals

24 October

01:57 1000m Ranking Finals
06:19 1000m Quarterfinals
07:00 1000m Semifinals
07:40 1000m Finals

Six Speed Skaters Named To 2021/2022 ISAI National Team

The Board of Directors of the Ice Skating Association of Ireland (ISAI) have selected six speed skaters to the ISAI National Team for the 2021/2022 season.

The following ISAI members have been chosen to represent Ireland on the international stage at International Skating Union (ISU) events::

Short Track Speed Skating

Ryan McAnuff
Sean McAnuff
Liam O’Brien

Speed Skating

Tara Donoghue
Rory McCarthy
Siún Ní Dhúgáin

 

Ryan McAnuff has been selected to the National Team for the sixth consecutive season. At the 2020 European Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Debrecen, Hungary, he finished in 34th place overall. He is currently studying medicine at the University of Limerick.

“I am very excited to once again be named to the Irish Short Track Speed Skating team,” Ryan said. “I am excited for another season with a growing Irish team where we look to qualify for the 2022 Olympic Games.”

Sean McAnuff joins his brother Ryan on the National Team again for the sixth time in a row. He placed 35th at the 2020 European Short Track Speed Skating Championships. Since December 2020, he has been training in Budapest, Hungary.

“I feel fortunate to be able to prepare for the Olympic year with Team Hungary, one of the best teams in the world, ” Sean said. “This opportunity has encouraged me to really have fun in the preparation process, and work harder than ever so that I can be the most well-rounded athlete possible. My goals are not only to succeed in my performance on the ice, but to see growth in my attitude, my perspectives, and discovery of what my definition of success looks like in my sport. It can be so easy to get caught up in thinking about the Olympic Qualifiers each day, so I am working hard to stay focused on living in the moment, celebrating my daily successes, and taking in the enjoyment of this season of life.”

Liam O’Brien has been selected for the Irish national team for the third time. Earlier this year, he finished 25th at European Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Gdansk, Poland and 29th at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands. He currently trains in Seongnam, Republic of Korea.

“I am looking forward to racing again this season,” O’Brien said. “The focus is to be competitive at the World Cups, with the end goal being Beijing at the beginning of 2022.”

Tara Donoghue placed 11th in the Mass Start race at the 2020 World Junior Speed Skating Championships in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland, the best result ever by an Irish ice skater at an ISU Championships. In 2019, she also became the first ice skater to earn a spot for Ireland at the Winter Youth Olympic Games which she was unfortunately unable to use due to age restrictions.

“My goals for the upcoming season are to qualify for the Senior World Cups in the 3000 metres and mass start,” Donoghue said. “From there on the ultimate goal would be qualification for the Beijing 2022 Olympics.”

Rory McCarthy was the first male long track speed skater to be named to the National Team in 2020. Based in the Netherlands, his favourite distance is the 500 metres.

“For the coming season, I hope to enjoy getting back to competition and seeing how far I can push myself,” McCarthy said.

Siún Ní Dhúgáin was also selected to the National Team for the first time in 2020. In July 2019, she participated in the “Road to Ice” training camp at Thialf Academy in Heerenveen, Netherlands.

You can find out more about our national team members here.

O’Brien Selected For Short Track Worlds

The Ice Skating Association of Ireland (ISAI) has chosen Liam O’Brien to represent Ireland at the 2021 World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Dordrecht, the Netherlands next month with Sean McAnuff named as substitute.

O’Brien made his debut at an ISU Championships last month at Europeans in Gdansk, Poland where he placed 25th overall, the best ever finish for an Irish short track speed skater at the event.

“I’m honoured to be given the opportunity to represent Ireland again at my first World Championships in the Netherlands,” O’Brien said. “I learnt a lot from my experience at the European Championships and hope to build off my performance and have a strong competition.”

The World Short Track Speed Skating Championship will take place 5-7 March 2021.

Bright Spots For Irish Ice Skating Amidst 2020 Challenges

Despite the past twelve months presenting major obstacles for our association and members, 2020 has not been without its highlights for Irish ice skating.

January was a hectic month with the conclusion of the Ice Skating Association of Ireland’s seasonal Emerald Skate lessons, a test session and the annual Winter Challenge. Internationally, Conor Stakelum represented Ireland at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships in Graz, Austria, while Ryan and Sean McAnuff flew the flag at the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Debrecen, Hungary. Ava Ryan became the first female short track speed skater from Ireland to participate at the ISU World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Bormio, Italy.

In February, Tara Donoghue continued to make history for Irish ice skating. At the ISU World Junior Speed Skating Championships in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland, she placed 11th and 18th in the mass start and 3000 metres races respectively, the highest placements ever for an Irish skater at an ISU Championships. The same month saw the Irish National Figure Skating Championships held at Lee Valley, London where five titles were decided. While it turned out to be one of the final domestic events on the Irish sporting calendar to take place before an initial lockdown in March, the effects of the pandemic were already being felt with the shipment of the championships medals from China being delayed.

Tara Donoghue was the recipient of an ISU Development Programme Junior Scholarship in May becoming only the second Irish athlete ever to be awarded.

Odhrán Allen and Clara Peters were welcome additions to the ISAI Board of Directors in July. Later in the month, the ISAI announced its largest ever national team for figure skating and speed skating.

With a slew of events cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic, it was October before Elizabeth Golding and Sophia Tkacheva became the first national team members to compete internationally when they took part in the Budapest Trophy in Budapest, Hungary.

In November, Golding was back in Budapest for the Santa Claus Cup where she finished fourth.

The ISAI’s Annual General Meeting went online in December with members virtually attending via Zoom.

2021 looks like it will be challenging both domestically and internationally for the foreseeable future with the ISAI’s Emerald Skate lessons for the 2020/2021 winter season and the ISU European Figure Skating Championships next month, for which Sam McAllister had been selected, already cancelled. The ISAI will continue to prioritise the health and safety of its members as we look forward to the day normal activities can be resumed.

 

Seven Speed Skaters Selected To 2020/2021 ISAI National Team

The Board of Directors of the Ice Skating Association of Ireland (ISAI) have selected seven speed skaters to the ISAI National Team for the 2020/2021 season.

The following ISAI members have been chosen to represent Ireland on the international stage at International Skating Union (ISU) events::

Short Track Speed Skating

Ryan McAnuff
Sean McAnuff
Liam O’Brien
Ava Ryan

Speed Skating

Tara Donoghue
Rory McCarthy
Siún Ní Dhúgáin

 

Ryan McAnuff has been selected to the National Team for the fifth consecutive season. At the 2020 European Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Debrecen, Hungary, he finished in 34th place overall with a career best individual placing of 24th in the 1000 metres. He is currently studying medicine at the University of Limerick.

Sean McAnuff joins his brother Ryan on the National Team for the fifth time in a row. He placed 35th at the 2020 European Short Track Speed Skating Championships with a personal best individual finish of 25th in the 1500 metres.

Liam O’Brien has been selected for the Irish national team for the second time. He currently trains in Seongnam, Republic of Korea under the tutelage of Lee Kwang Soo.

Ava Ryan became the first female short track speed skater to be named to represent Ireland at an ISU Championships in January 2020. She set three national records in her World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships debut. She trains under Simon Cho, 2010 Olympic medallist, at the Potomac Speed Skating Club in Maryland, United States of America.

Tara Donoghue placed 11th in the Mass Start and 18th in the 3000 metres at the 2020 World Junior Speed Skating Championships in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland, the best results ever by an Irish ice skater at an ISU Championships. Earlier in the season, she also became the first ice skater to earn a spot for Ireland at the Winter Youth Olympic Games.

Rory McCarthy is the first male long track speed skater to be named to the National Team. Based in the Netherlands, his favourite distance is the 500 metres.

Siún Ní Dhúgáin has also been selected to the National Team for the first time. In July 2019, she participated in the “Road to Ice” training camp at Thialf Academy in Heerenveen, Netherlands.

You can find out more about our national team members here.

Sean McAnuff Completes Races At Dresden World Cup

At his third ISU (International Skating Union) World Cup Short Track Speed Skating event of the season, Irish skater Sean McAnuff raced this weekend at the EnergieVerbund Arena in Dresden, Germany.

McAnuff began the competition with the heats of the 1000 metres where he was drawn in Heat 9. He recorded a time of 1:29.247 to place fourth. The following day in the repechage quarterfinals he came joint fourth in Heat 4 with a time of 1:30.524 and was classified 43rd overall for the distance.

McAnuff also contested the 1500 metres (2) in Dresden. For the quarterfinals, he lined up in Heat 8 and posted a time of 2:26.554 for fourth place. In the repechage quarterfinals, he came fifth in Heat 3 in a time of 2:22.114. He was 41st in the overall classification for the distance.

Full results for the ISU World Cup Short Track are available here.