European Youth Olympics: Shauna and Amanda tell us all about it!

The Irish Team at the EYO Games 2015 opening ceremony

The Irish Team at the EYO Games 2015 opening ceremony

 

The European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) is the top multisport event for young European athletes between the ages of 14 and 18. There are both a winter and summer edition, which take place in two-year cycles, in odd years. The European Youth Olympic Festival belongs to the European Olympic Committees (EOC), and is organised on behalf of the EOC, which has the exclusive rights to the event. The EYOFs are held under the patronage of the IOC.

The 2015 Summer EYOF took place in the capital city of Georgia, Tbilisi, between 26 July and 1 August 2015.

There were nine sports on the programme of the 2015 Summer EYOF, all located in the city of Tbilisi:

  • Artistic Gymnastics
  • Athletics
  • Basketball
  • Cycling
  • Handball
  • Judo
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball

Below are personal reports from the two female members of  Cycling Ireland’s Irish Youth Squad for the 2015 EYO, Shauna McFadden, and Amanda Gallagher (both Errigal CC):

Shauna McFadden : My European Youth Olympics experience 2015

To go to the European Youth Olympics, I had to do four qualifying races 2 time trials and 2 road races. I did well in these four races and was very lucky to earn a place on the Irish team who would be travelling to Georgia.

My family we’re ecstatic that I was selected. It was such an amazing opportunity. I knew that before I left that it was going to be the best ten days of my life.

We left Dublin airport on Wednesday 26th July. All the athletes travelled together runners, swimmers, gymnasts, cyclist etc. we got to know each other on the journey over. When we arrived we were given a tour of the Olympic village. It was fantastic. We were all very excited to be there and be a part of the EYO Festival.

The opening ceremony is something I will always remember. Walking out into the arena with my Ireland tracksuit on, holding an Irish flag with all the other Irish athletes, I realised there and then that all my dreams had come true. The atmosphere was electric I felt so privileged to be a part of the team and I knew that’s why I trained every single day in the winter, that’s why I got up at 6am to fit in a cycle before school in the wind and rain. It was all worth it, all of it.

I had two races to do a TT and a road race. I was a little disappointed with my TT but was happy with my road race. The closing ceremony was another amazing experience. I enjoyed every single second of it. I will be forever grateful to Cycling Ireland for choosing me to represent Ireland in the EYOF.

It has made me realise even more that, yes, this is what I want to do. I want to be a cyclist. I want to surround myself with people on the same mission as me. The friendships I have made will be long lasting and I hope through continued hard work and commitment I will be able to represent Ireland again and do my family, town, county and country proud.

EYO Games 2015 The whole team on bikes

EYO Games 2015 The whole team on bikes

 

Amanda Gallagher: My Journey to the European Youth Olympic Festival 2015

I started cycling competitively in 2013 and my first big result came when I was racing in the under 14’s at the Ulster Road Championships which were held locally that year. To my surprise, and with little knowledge of training and fitness, I had a good result.

The new cycling season of 2014 saw me compete further afield, as I began to travel throughout Ireland to various events. My parents and I had no idea of the huge amount of travelling involved in order to cover the race calendar of events I wished to participate in. That year the National Road Championships was my main goal and after competing well during the season, I was chosen for the Talent Team as part of a group of four girls and eight boys.

At the beginning of the 2015 season we were informed of the four qualifying selection races in the lead up for the 2015 EYOF. My goal now was firmly set to qualify for the Irish Youth Olympic Team and I put all my efforts into training and competing in those four races.

The team was announced in late May which consisted of three boys and two girls, namely Luke Smith, Ronan Tuomey, Harvey Barnes, Shauna Mc Fadden and myself. It was so exciting to think you were going to an International event and that you would be representing Ireland at this level in the sport of cycling. I could never have imagined that my first race would have led to this wonderful experience of competing against the best that Europe had to offer in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Early July saw the talent team off to Belgium on a training camp some two weeks ahead of the Olympics to get acclimatized to the conditions. We put in some good training sessions and also took part in a few races which were enjoyable with the boys getting a couple of podium places. This got us familiar with what to expect in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Before we set of to Georgia, the Irish Olympic Council had an information day at Howth Yacht Club just across the road from their headquarters. This was hosted by Martin Burke of OCI who gave a presentation on what to expect and what was needed for our trip as the culture in Georgia is very different from our own. We got to meet all the athletes from the other disciplines who would be traveling with us as Team Ireland. At the end of the day, everyone got their travel cases with all the necessary kit sponsored by New Balance to whom we extend our sincere thanks.

We met in Dublin airport on the 22nd of August prepared for a long day of travel. The flight was boarded at 11am to Istanbul and we didn’t arrive in the Olympic Village until 4 amTbilisi time which is three hours ahead of Ireland. The journey was long but we had a few days to adjust to the time difference and heat before our competitions began. The village was beautiful with each country hanging their flags over the balconies of their apartments, the food hall was a minute walk away and there was also an indoor swimming pool. The opening ceremony was held in a stadium just outside the village. Bus transport was provided for everyone with a police escort adding to the fanfare of the occasion.

EYO games 2015 opening ceremony!

EYO games 2015 opening ceremony!

The opening ceremony was a fantastic spectacle, and with the village now full to capacity, excitement was starting to build up within Team Ireland. Martin O Loughlin and Nicola Mc Kiverigan were our team Managers and Adrian the mechanic helped us unpack and build our bikes as we hit the road to get some final training done.

We got to cycle the time-trial course a few days beforehand. The time trial took place on Tuesday, 28th July in 42 degrees Celsius and the course was a flat 10km out and back. We warmed up in the shade for thirty minutes with Nicola keeping us cool with cold wet towels and ice. I was called to the starting area where I got a gear check done, signed on and sat in the queue for the starting ramp. Before I knew it, the beep started and I was off. Around three minutes into the time-trail I could feel a burning sensation at the back of my throat, the dry heat was interfering with my breathing and it affected my overall performance in the race. I was disappointed to finish in 58th place, 86 seconds behind the winner.

The road race took place on Thursday, 30th July. Shauna Mc Fadden and I warmed up in the shade under a tent and were called to the starting line in order of our race numbers. During the race there were many crashes which we gladly managed to avoid. We had 2 laps of a 24 km circuit around Tbilisi Lake. The pace in the road race wasn’t as fast as I had expected, moving around was difficult however and I struggled a little on the hills. I finished in 60th position in the road race. The EYOF was a great experience and is something I will learn from but never forget. I have also made many new friends who like me, enjoyed every minute of the festival. I would like to thank Cycling Ireland along with the Olympic Council of Ireland for giving me the opportunity to compete for my country. I would also like to thank all the team managers and support personnel who helped me while I was away with a special word for Martin, Nicola and Adrian who looked after us cyclists.

The reception that awaited us at Dublin Airport was unbelievable from all our family and friends which added to the whole experience and gave us many memories to cherish. I hope to continue cycling and competing internationally, and feel that the EYOF will stand to me in the coming years.

 

Thank you so much to Shauna and Amanda for sharing their wonderful experience with us, and very best wishes to them with their future cycling careers!

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