The Olympics should be a focus for Irish sportspeople and be promoted to young athletes every year in order to increase the number of Irish athletes heading to the games, according to Olympic boxer Kenny Egan.
With the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games officially in full swing, Sport Ireland and the Olympic Federation Ireland have been taking a tour of the country to speak to the families of the current Olympians and send messages of support to Tokyo.
As part of the Sport Ireland Olympic Home Tour, Beijing ’08 silver medallist Kenny Egan, Sydney ’00 silver medallist Sonia O’Sullivan and London ’12 bronze medallist Rob Heffernan have been meeting the families of the Team Ireland athletes and sharing their support as well.
Speaking to OTB Sports’ Aisling O’Reilly at the event, Egan recalled what sparked his drive to become an Olympic athlete.
“I remember watching Michael Carruth win his gold medal in 1992, when I was eight years of age,” Egan said.
“My eldest brother was a boxer, he brought me to the club and I started from there and that was a distant achievement of mine, I wanted to be an Olympian.
“All of a sudden, 18 years later [I was one]. Eighteen years it took me to get my Olympic place, so it is a long, gruelling career, but it is worth it when you qualify.”
Watch Rob Heffernan's interview with Aisling O'Reilly:
For Egan, the important part of becoming an Olympian is the drive and determination to get there, rather than simply having a talent for one’s chosen competition.
“When people talk about talent, it only gets you so far,” Egan said. “I’ve been on teams with guys that have had more talent in their little finger than I had in my whole body.
“But they didn’t have the discipline, they would keep up the training, they didn’t turn up, their diet wouldn’t be right, they wouldn’t be making weight, and they would just fall off to the side.
“I just remained there; I don’t know if I was stubborn or just mad, but I kept coming back every year and pushed myself to the limit all of the time.
“I think that mindset got me across the line; it wasn’t my talent. There was a bit of talent, but it was that work rate and that deep down want to qualify [for the Olympics ].”
Watch Sonia O'Sullivan's interview with Aisling O'Reilly:
It is for this reason that Egan wants to see the Olympics on the national sporting agenda every year, as he feels that the increased visibility of Olympic athletes and Olympic sports will result in even more Irish athletes becoming Olympians.
“That is why we need Olympic sport on the agenda,” Egan said. “It is to get kids active and get them to aspire to be something great, and that is what I did.
“I went out there and got the business done and came back and became a local hero and it was a fantastic achievement.
“That is why we need to keep this Olympic movement going year-in, year-out; not just every four years.
“It is very important that we keep the Olympics on the agenda and letting kids know that the Olympics are achievable.
“I am a normal Joe Soap from a normal housing estate that put the work in and sacrificed, trained hard, made weight, made weight again and again after that!
“It is not easy, but it is possible. It is possible for anyone to be an Olympian.”