O’Brien Sets Two National Record To Close Out Season At Worlds

Liam O’Brien rounded out his season this weekend at the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

On the opening day of competition, O’Brien lined up in the qualification rounds in all three distances. He first tackled the 1500m quarterfinals where he was drawn in Heat 5. In a cagey race, he was in contention right up until the final lap, but had to settle for fourth in a time of 2:27.896. In Heat 2 of the 500m preliminaries, he managed to stay out of trouble coming home in third in 42.522 which was good enough to advance him to the 500m heats. Drawn in Heat 6 in the outside lane, he was never really in contention from the start and finished fifth in a time of 42.978. The final distance of Day One was the 1000m and O’Brien found himself racing in Heat 1 of the preliminaries. In a tight contest, he sneaked into third place in a new national record of 1:26.013 and advanced to the heats on time. He concluded a busy day of racing in Heat 3 starting off strongly before coming into contact with another skater which threw O’Brien off course. He valiantly tried to catch up to the rest of the field, but had to be content with 5th place in a time of 1:29.815.

Day Two saw O’Brien race in the repechage rounds of the 1500m and 500m. In Heat 4 of the 1500m repechage quarterfinals, the opening pace was quite slow and did not heat up until seven laps were left. O’Brien fought hard, but fell behind with two laps to go finishing fifth in 2:38.563. In the classification for the distance, he stood 43rd overall. He was back on the ice shortly afterwards for the 500m repechage quarterfinals. With just the winner of Heat 1 gaining automatic qualification and only two spots available for the fastest second place finishers on time across the eight heats, it was always going to be a tall order to advance. However, O’Brien put his best foot forward and was just inches away from securing second in his heat. He had to make do with third place with the consolation of a new Irish record of 42.145. His overall ranking for the distance was 35th.

O’Brien was dressed more than appropriately in green for the final day of racing on Saint Patrick’s Day. Shortly after the start of the Heat 5 of the 100om repechage quarterfinals, contact from another skater sent O’Brien off course. He trailed home in third place with a time of 2:08.690, but was advanced to the next round. In Heat 1 of the repechage semi-finals, he began positively taking the lead with seven laps to go. However, with three laps remaining he lost contact and came third in a time of 1:30.194. With a 25th placing, he earned his best classification for the championships.

“I’m glad I could show everything I have worked on this season,” O’Brien said. “While I may not have progressed through to the main event, I think it was my best showing and I will carry the experience through to next season and build on the result.”

O’Brien On Track For Rotterdam Worlds

Liam O’Brien (25) makes his fourth consecutive appearance at the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships which this year are being held in Rotterdam, The Netherlands (15-17 March).

O’Brien will be flying the flag for Ireland this St. Patrick’s weekend as one of over 90 athletes from 36 countries vying for glory in the men’s category inside the Ahoy Rotterdam ice rink. The World Short Track Championships were first held back in 1976. Ireland has been represented at every edition held since 2017.

O’Brien starts racing on Friday, 15 March with the qualification rounds of the 500, 1000 and 1500 metre distances. Subsequent rounds, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals will take place on Saturday, 16 March and Sunday, 17 March.

“I’m excited to race here in Rotterdam this weekend, especially on Paddy’s Day,” O’Brien said. “The venue looks amazing and there will be a great atmosphere. I hope to improve on my results throughout the season and push towards the main event in both the 1000 and 1500 metres.

The ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships will be broadcast online on the Skating ISU YouTube channel. Geographical restrictions may apply. The results of the championships can be followed on the event results page and on social media via the #ShortTrackSkating hashtag.

O’Brien Seoul Competitor For Ireland At Short Track Worlds

Liam O’Brien (24) is all set to close out the season this weekend (10-12 March) as he represents Ireland at the KB Financial Group ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Seoul, South Korea.

The Irish skater will be among a field of over 80 athletes from 34 countries racing for top honours in the men’s category. The World Short Track Championships were first held back in 1976. Ireland has been represented at every edition held since 2017.

O’Brien will begin the championships in the early hours of the morning Irish time on Friday, 10 March with the qualifications rounds of the 500, 1000 and 1500 metres distances. Subsequent rounds, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals will take place on Saturday, 11 March and Sunday, 12 March.

This will be the third consecutive appearance at Worlds for O’Brien.

“I hope to represent Ireland strongly and progress into the main event on Saturday and Sunday.”

As O’Brien trains in South Korea, he will not have to adjust too much in terms of the environment.

“It feels a little different with Worlds being held only an hour away from my training base. I hope to build on my performance throughout the season.”

The KB Financial Group ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships will be broadcast online on the ISU YouTube channel. Geographical restrictions may apply. The results of the championships can be followed on the event results page and on social media via the #ShortTrackSkating hashtag.

McAnuff 35th; O’Brien 37th at Short Track Worlds

Sean McAnuff (24) and Liam O’Brien (23) have concluded their seasons at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Montreal, Canada where they finish 35th and 37th respectively in the overall classification. This was the first time Ireland fielded two skaters in the same category at an ISU World Championships.

Racing began for the two Irish men with the opening day qualifying rounds. First up were the 1500 metres quarterfinals. O’Brien came fourth in Heat 4 in a time of 2:22.931. while McAnuff was fifth with a time of 2:24.441 in Heat 6.

Next up were the 500 metres preliminaries. McAnuff raced in Heat 8 where he came fourth in 42.475 and was followed by O’Brien in Heat 9 who also ended up fourth in a time of 43.549.

The final distance on the opening day were the 1000 metres preliminaries. Unfortunately, O’Brien picked up a penalty in Heat 5. McAnuff wound up fourth in Heat 8 (1:27.595).

The Irish skaters lined up for two ranking finals on Day Two. McAnuff appeared in Heat 2 of the 1500 metres and finished sixth in a closely fought race in 2:26.229. O’Brien was next on the track in Heat 3 and took fourth in 2:29.668. O’Brien finished 25th and McAnuff 34th overall in the distance.

For the 500 metres preliminaries ranking finals, McAnuff and O’Brien were both drawn in Heat 2. Although O’Brien received a penalty, McAnuff had his best finish of the championships by placing second in a time of 43.243. McAnuff ranked 35th and O’Brien 37th for the distance.

The last day of the championships saw just McAnuff in action in the 1000 metres preliminaries ranking finals. He came third in Heat 3 with a time of 1:32.192 and was classified 31st for the distance. O’Brien ranked 44th.

“I think this has been the most successful weekend of my skating career thus far,” McAnuff said. “I was able to accomplish each goal I set, as well as reconnect and enjoy the company of fellow skaters that I have met over the years. It was refreshing, yet inspiring to finish off this Olympic season back in Canada at Maurice Richard. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have raced this weekend, but I am certainly looking forward to the season of rest ahead!”

“The competition didn’t go as planned after receiving penalties in both the 500 and 1000 metres,” O’Brien said. “However, it was great to have crowds back at racing and have an atmosphere in the ice rink. I’m glad that this season has come to an end as it was full of ups and downs and time for some much needed rest.”


McAnuff and O’Brien On Track For Historic Worlds

This weekend Ireland’s Sean McAnuff (24) and Liam O’Brien (23) close out their season at the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Montreal, Canada which had originally been scheduled for last month. This marks the first time that the Ice Skating Association of Ireland fields two athletes in the same category at an ISU World Championships.

McAnuff and O’Brien will be among over 119 skaters from 27 countries participating in the annual event. They will first race on Friday (8 April) in the qualifying rounds for the 500, 1000 and 1500 metre distances with further rounds taking place over the following two days.

McAnuff will be racing for the first time since his season was interrupted in November last year with a bout of Covid-19 causing him to miss out on the final two Olympic qualifying World Cups. He previously competed at Worlds back in 2019.

“With the difficulties of Covid in the prior season, and the postponement of the World Championships this season, many of us have had to sacrifice other areas of our personal lives to try and avoid compromising our skating goals,” McAnuff said. “Now that the end of the season is here, I really want to bring a fun and light hearted atmosphere to this competition, while bringing joy to the sport we all started because of our love for it! One goal for me is encouraging this kind of environment. I think it is important to remember we can’t all take home a gold medal, but we can all take away an experience that fosters our passion for the sport rather than an experience that burns us out.”

By placing 29th at last year’s Worlds, O’Brien qualified two spots for Ireland this time round in the men’s event in Montreal. He continued his good form this season at the World Cups last autumn and agonisingly missed out on securing a quota spot at the Beijing Olympics in the 1500 metres by just one place.

“I am looking forward to getting out there and racing at the weekend for the first time since the World Cups back in November,” O’Brien said. “I hope to improve on last season’s World Championships results and my performance at this season’s World Cup series.”

The World Short Track Speed Skating Championships will be broadcast online in Ireland on the Eurosport Player (paid subscription required) and the ISU YouTube channel. McAnuff and O’Brien will start their campaigns inside the Maurice Richard Arena tomorrow afternoon (8 April) Irish time.

The results of the championships can be followed on the event results page and on social media via the #WorldShortTrack and #ShortTrackSkating hashtags.

Sean McAnuff: Man On A Mission For Short Track Worlds

Sean McAnuff (24) lines up later this week at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships (8-10 April) in Montreal, Canada three years on from his first participation in the event. In the meantime, the Irish speed skater has graduated from university, gotten married and moved overseas to a new training base all in the midst of the difficulties involved competing at an elite level during a global pandemic.

Following his graduation from Bishop’s University (Sherbrooke, Quebec) and marriage to Jess, the newlyweds moved from Canada to Budapest, Hungary to train with the Hungarian national team in December 2020. In recent years, Hungary has been a powerhouse nation in short track speed skating with stars such as brothers Shaolin Sándor Liu and Shaoang Liu winning European, World and Olympic medals. After competing alongside and getting to know his Hungarian counterparts over a number of seasons, the opportunity to attend a training camp in July 2020 presented itself.

“I’d never been to Budapest before and it was actually the two hottest weeks they had that year, but the training was really good,” McAnuff recalled. “Immediately, the athletes and the coaches took me in as one of their own and they were just very generous. Even though they all speak Hungarian, obviously, the coaches are very international. There’s a Chinese coach and a Korean coach, so English is the main language spoken for training which made it easier as well.”

Covid-19 inevitably delayed McAnuff’s move to Hungary, but after several months and quarantining over Christmas 2020 he began training full-time in Budapest in January 2021 with his eyes on the target of qualifying a spot for Ireland at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Last summer his focus was on preparing for the four ISU World Cups Olympic qualifying events in autumn 2021.

“Everything went pretty well honestly,” he said. “The equipment, my endurance and my technique – I felt improvements overall.”

The first two World Cups were held in Beijing, China and Nagoya, Japan. McAnuff raced well and even set a new personal best in the 1500 metres, but he found that his fellow athletes had also raised the bar during the off-season.

“The competition was very high,” he said. “I looked around and I realised how much everyone else trained. It wasn’t a shock. I didn’t expect to be getting a gold medal out there, but it was very clear that everyone really worked hard coming into this Olympic season. It was a tough competition and overall I was pleased with my placement and my strategy. There were things I got to learn and work on, but also some little successes too.”

However, on his return to Europe to prepare for the final two World Cups in Debrecen, Hungary and Dordrecht, Netherlands, he tested positive for Covid-19.

“I didn’t really have symptoms when I got the positive tests, but the next day it hit me,” he said. “I was out of training for five weeks. All of November into the first week of December, I was off.

“In those five weeks, I missed the third and fourth Olympic qualifiers in Europe. I was really looking forward to them and it was really difficult to not be able to compete. I felt like I worked for the last four years and then Covid hit me and I couldn’t test negative.

“I think I could have gone to race, but I don’t know how I would have performed physically after the illness. That was really hard mentally. I had to come back and focus on why I’m skating. The Olympics is a goal, but I really do treasure building the community in the sport.”

McAnuff has also connected with the Irish community in Hungary and the Irish Ambassador to Hungary, His Excellency Mr. Ronan Gargan, has even come to watch one of his training sessions.

“The morning of the practice, I was notified he was coming to watch and he wanted to see me skate and meet me,” McAnuff said “That was really cool.

“There’s a lot of Irish restaurants, which is awesome. I can always go and feel like I’m sitting on the streets of Dublin in a little bar or restaurant. There’s some some great musicians we go watch. There is actually a solid Irish community here and, funnily enough, my wife and I live near the Veterinary University and there are hundreds of Irish students studying right here on on the campus.”

McAnuff and his wife are also full-time missionaries and through their church they have been involved in outreach programmes and voluntary activities. Recently, they have been actively supporting refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine which shares a border with Hungary.

“This organisation that we volunteer with is called Youth With A Mission and their base in Budapest is connected with one in Kyiv. They would message us and tell us they have a family coming over arriving at the border at a certain time and ask us if we can go pick them up. We would get a rental car and drive to the border. It’s about three hours to three and a half hours away. We’ve done that multiple times. Sometimes you don’t even have their phone numbers, so we just have their name on a sign.

“We pick refugees up and bring them back to the city. Then we would put them up either in a hotel or even in our apartment. We have a spare bed, so we would house them, or if they already had a destination, we figured out how to get them there.

“Aside from the the border runs, the other thing we would do would be grocery shopping for refugees. People in Canada, and actually internationally, who we’re raising funds with, are sending us money to help these refugees.

“We just get to help these refugees going through a ridiculously hard time. Most of them come with just a backpack. They need sweaters. They need socks. They need shoes.

“Just how thankful they are, the tears in their eyes, the smiles on their face, and the hugs they give – you don’t even need to speak the language. They’re just so thankful that people here are helping.

“The organisation we’re volunteering with actually have vehicles going into Ukraine. I’ll be going on some runs into Ukraine once I get back from Worlds. It sounds very intense, but obviously we take the proper safety precautions and security.”

Being born and growing up in Canada, McAnuff is looking forward to going back to Montreal to race in a venue with which he is very familiar.

“It is very exciting and I’ve raced in the Maurice Richard Arena a dozen times over my lifetime, because it’s a quick drive from Ontario, where I grew up,” McAnuff said. “It’s kind of nostalgic to be back in that rink. The last time I was there was for the World Championships in 2018, at the end of the Olympic season. My brother Ryan was the one competing as we only had one spot. I was there as an alternate. Looking back now, it’s four years later and the same situation at the end of the Olympic season, but this time it’s me representing Ireland. I would say it’s a little extra special just to be there representing Ireland so close to where I was born and grew up as well. I will get to see some familiar faces and reunite.”

McAnuff will compete with teammate Liam O’Brien and it will be the first time that Ireland will have two entries in the same category at an ISU World Championships.

“I’m very excited to have Liam there as well,” McAnuff said. “We only got to really train together for those first two Olympic qualifiers, but it was fun to get to know each other more. Just having a teammate there is also nice. You can talk about your races and just decompress a little too.”

The ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships begin this Friday, 8 April 2022 with the qualification rounds. Follow the ISAI social media accounts for updates from Montreal!





O’Brien Cracks Top 30 At Short Track Worlds

Irish short track speed skater Liam O’Brien (22) has finished in 29th place overall on his debut at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Dordrecht, The Netherlands (5-7 March).

O’Brien raced six times over the course of the three days of the championships inside the Optisport Sportboulevard Arena where comprehensive testing, hygiene and social distancing protocols were in place in accordance with the Guidelines for ISU Events during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

On Day One, he took part in the qualifying rounds for three distances. He was drawn in Heat 2 of the 1500 metres quarterfinals and came fourth in a time of 2:26.068. The 500 metres heats saw him come fourth in Heat 8 with a time of 43.799 after tripping slightly at the start of the race. His last event of the opening day of competition was the 1000 metres heats where he clocked a new personal best time of 1:28.144 in Heat 5 to finish fifth.

The following day O’Brien was back on the ice for two ranking finals. The first race was the 1500 metres in which he came fourth in a drama-filled Heat 3 with a time of 2:39.298 to finish 25th overall in that distance. He came second in Heat 3 of the 500 metres with a time of 43.245 to place 32nd overall for the distance.

O’Brien wrapped up on the final day with the ranking final for the 1000 metres where he notched up another personal best time of 1:27.564 in Heat 2. He placed 33rd in the distance which gave him an overall championship classification of 29th. This is the highest placement ever by an Irish short track speed skater in the history of the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships.

In addition, O’Brien’s overall ranking well inside the Top 32 means that he has secured two spots for Ireland in the men’s category at the 2022 World Short Track Speed Skating Championships which will be held in Montréal, Canada.

“I’m happy with the end result,” O’Brien said. “It was a different level of competitiveness out there this weekend compared to the European Championships and I felt the nerves on Friday, making mistakes that may have cost qualification into the main event.

“I was able to calm down my nerves on Saturday and compete in the ranking finals so I am happy with the progression. I am looking forward to building on that over the coming months and be back out there racing next season.”

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.