Irish women must be allowed their dream sleigh ride

The Winter Olympics get underway tomorrow in Vancouver, but there won't be a huge amount of interest here. The winter games, unlike the summer ones, are not a big deal in Ireland.

This year's team consists of six athletes, which I think may be the biggest team Ireland's ever sent to the winter games. I'm not really sure because even the official Olympic Council of Ireland web site offers little enough about Ireland's Winter Olympics past. Ireland sent five athletes to the 2006 games.

Snow and ice are rarities here, there are very few skating rinks, and almost nobody plays hockey so few kids grow up dreaming of partaking in the winter games. All of which makes it imperative that Aoife Hoey and Claire Bergin be allowed to compete in the women's bobsleigh.

Despite all the odds stacked against them, the pair qualified for this year's Olympics. That hasn't been the end of their trial, however. First Australia objected to Ireland's entry because, Australia argued, their region - Oceania - wasn't represented in the women's competition.

I never knew that regions competed at the Olympics, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled yesterday that both Ireland and Australia should both be allowed to take part in the women's bobsleigh. Australia will compete under the Oceania flag, I'm sure. Regardless the Irish team was safe.

Now the Brazilians are offering another argument as to why the Irish women should be excluded. The Irish Times says there's confusion as to what exactly is the Brazilians' problem, but it seems to stem from the fact that the Irish women were late to enter the qualifying campaign. So they got a late start, but still managed it and that should count against them?

I know what you're thinking, sounds a lot like the movie Cool Runnings. Yes, except the happy ending isn't written yet. And we're not talking about 4 easy-going Jamaican fellas, but two determined Irish women.

There'd be a lot less "peace be da journey" and a lot more, as the Fighting 69th cried heading into battle, "Faugh-a-ballagh." That's Irish (Gaelic) for "clear the way", which based on my experience, would be excellent advice if these two Irish women are unjustly denied their Olympic dream.

In addition to Hoey and Bergin, the Irish Olympic team consists of Pat Shannon (men's skeleton), Kirsty McGarry (women's slalom), Shane O'Connor (men's slalom) and PJ Barron (men’s cross-country skiing). I'm sure you'll join me in rooting for them to do well and, from what I gather, there's no fear they'll beat your any of your favorite athletes to a medal. You'll have no conflicting loyalties. It's all about competing for the Irish athletes.

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