"No one critiques an athlete more than themselves" - Irish gymnast Kieran Behan on preparation for Rio 2016

The 27-year-old will compete in his second successive Olympic Games this summer

BY Cian Roche 16:28 Monday 2 May 2016, 16:28 2 May 2016

With less than 100 days to go until the opening ceremony for this summer's Olympic Games, athletes will begin fine tuning their preparations and readying themselves for perhaps the biggest event of the careers.

For some it will be a new and unique experience while for others like Irish gymnast, Kieran Behan, this will be another chance to perform on one of the biggest platforms in world sport.

Performing under the discipline of Men's artistic gymnastics, Behan took to the mat to represent Ireland in London four years ago and his journey from being wheelchair-bound in his childhood to becoming an Olympic gymnast is something you would find in a Hollywood script.

"You can’t buy experience and I think London was the biggest of all experiences" he told Newstalk.com, "I've certainly learned a lot since then.

"I understand what my body requires and the preparation I need to put in and obviously the support is crucial. Fingers crossed that can come my way and grab that with both hands and go for it."

Behan is joined by Ellis O'Reilly to complete the team of gymnasts who will represent Ireland in Rio and explains the opportunity the 18-year-old has when she competes in her maiden games.

"When we went over to Rio for the Test event, I obviously competed beforehand and secured the place and then Ellis was the day after. It was really good for us both. She could go out there and see I achieved it and she knew she could go out and do the same.

 Irish Olympic gymnast, Ellis O'Reilly. Image:©INPHO/Billy Stickland

"When you’re the only one being sent it’s very difficult before the competition when you’re having to focus on every little detail and you feel like you've got no one else around you. So if you've got someone else who you can bounce off  I think it makes a massive difference.

"I have the experience to go to London and I hope to give that experience and help Ellis if she’s feeling nervous or apprehensive with any training or anything. We’re on our way, stay injury free and go out there and enjoy it."

While the Irish boxers will no doubt receive the most extensive coverage when you consider the success they have had in previous Games, Behan insists that he will be putting enough pressure on himself to perform at the highest level.

"Every athlete has their own expectation and no one critiques an athlete more than themselves. I have my own goals, I’m going to focus on that. The way I can perform the best is making sure I’m in the best physical shape and mentally in the best shape. Then whatever happens, happens.

"If I was to win a medal that would be phenomenal and the icing on the cake. For me it was about securing and going to my second Olympics and with everything I’d been through that was the biggest thing.  

"And to have Ellis with us is fantastic, to have two people in what is effectively new water for Irish gymnastics is fantastic."

While a podium finish is the target, the three time Northern European Gymnastics Championships gold medallist insists it's the work behind the scenes that has put him where he is today.

"Obviously when you’re competing at that high a level and you’re fully obsessive about what you’re doing. You've got that massive adrenaline buzz of qualifying and winning a medal but after that you come crashing back to reality. Back to the daily struggle of working and training."

So, while the countdown to Rio continues and this year's Olympic Games looms ever closer Behan remains firmly focused on the task at hand and will hope to take his performances on the biggest stage to the next level.

Kieran Behan was speaking at the The Olympic Council of Ireland's "100 Days to Rio" press event.


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