Interview with Colm Barrington

14 November 2016

Interview with Colm Barrington, Chairman of the Olympic Steering Group and the Irish Sailing Foundation prior to Annelise Murphy’s Olympic medal in Rio

In this interview with in July 2016, Colm outlined his hopes for the Olympic Regatta, the future funding arrangements for Irish Olympic sailing and explained what an ‘elusive’ Olympic sailing medal would mean to Ireland.


Q: In your tenure as Chair of the Olympic Steering Group, there have been some excellent performances. Have these results helped with generating tangible support for the current Olympic campaigns?


A: Most importantly, the results achieved through the ISA Performance Pathway have resulted in greater competition for Olympic places and so have helped to up everyone’s game. This has been most evident in the Laser and Laser Radial classes where we had competition for places. As our Pathway sailors mature we believe that this trend will increase giving us several young Irish sailors competing in each of the 4 Olympic classes.

As regards financial support, in every Olympic cycle interest peaks around the time of the Olympics. Sport Ireland has assessed our progress on a year by year basis and even though results have been really strong at Youth and Senior level it has not had an impact in terms of funding increases. However, this has to be viewed in terms of the overall level of government support for sport which has remained static over the last four years in the difficult economic circumstances. Relatively speaking sailing has done well in comparison with other sports. With the number of squads in our Pathway increasing it means there is no tangible increase in funding at an individual level even though more sailors are now benefitting from the programme.


Q: How do you see the role of the Irish Sailing Foundation in developing a sustainable and repeatable support structure?


A: The Irish Sailing Foundation was set up to support, develop and make sustainable a repeatable structure that is already in place with the ISA Performance Pathway. The Pathway is the project that our Performance Director James O’Callaghan and his team of coaches have implemented over the last ten years. The success of this programme is clear to see – in the last four years we have medalled three times at youth worlds. It is now our job to make sure these talented youngsters progress. The goal of the Foundation is to widen access to the Pathway and High Performance sailing to many more young Irish people, regardless of their means.


Q: What would be the impact of a Rio medal?


A: I believe that the impact on sailing in Ireland of an Olympic medal would be hugely positive. Take the public interest generated in women’s boxing by Katie Taylor winning Gold at the London Olympics and in women’s rugby after we beat New Zealand. Ireland has not won a sailing medal at the Olympics since 1980 and despite the fact that our sailors have won World Championships, European Championships and World Cup medals in recent years, sailing is still very much below the public horizon. We have the potential to deliver a medal which would help attract a wider audience. When Annalise Murphy came 4th at the London Olympics, there was a huge increase in the number of young Irish girls with Olympic ambitions. A medal would bring sailing to the attention of a wider group which would benefit our clubs, our sailing schools, our training programmes, the ISA and the sailing community in general.


Personally, I would be delighted if we could get that elusive medal. I would be particularly delighted for the athletes involved, for their families, for their trainers, for their mates in the training programmes and for all those who have supported them through the many hard years of training and competing, both financially and emotionally. This is my last chance as chair of the OSG as I will step down after twelve years shortly after the games end in Rio. I will remain as chair of the Foundation and I believe that a medal in Rio would help us achieve our fundraising goals.

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