A California teenager is to fly the Irish flag with pride at the winter Olympics in Russia.

Irish American snowboarding sensation Seamus O’Connor qualifies for Ireland as his grandparents came from Drogheda and Dublin.

The 16-year-old from San Diego, snapped by Nike three years ago, began snowboarding at just four years of age.

He declared for Ireland in 2010 with the sole intention of representing the country at the winter games in Russia next year.

O’Connor told the Irish Sun newspaper: “With the US team, it was not possible to make the Olympics. There are at least 20 really talented snowboarders but only four can get picked.

“The likelihood of me being one of those four isn’t good. My dad brought up the idea of representing Ireland and I thought it would be a privilege to ride under the Irish flag.

“It’s an honor to get to go and represent a country that I’m from.”

Ironically the Russian games will be held in Sochi, close to the border with Georgia where his mother Elena’s family comes from.

Seamus added: “It’s cool because I’ll be going to Ireland before the games and then I’ll be going to Russia. It’s the two sides of my family.”

One of the youngest competitors in the Winter Olympics next February, O’Connor already has the points required to qualify in the Half-pipe contest, but he also hopes to compete in the Slope Style competition.

He added: “Right now medals aren’t in my hopes. Being 16, I’ll be one of the youngest. It’s just a crazy ride. I’ll be happy to be there and give it my best.”

The Irish Sun
reports that Seamus is currently training in Colorado’s mountain region.

He said: “I was four when I first stepped on a board and then I started competing at eight or nine and went to the nationals.

“It’s hard to believe that the Olympics is now the stage we’re at. I’m just trying to stay modest and safe between now and then.

“These next few months are so important in terms of tricks that I need to work on that, it’s difficult for me. I just have to work hard and stay uninjured.”