Salem Radio Network News Friday, May 20, 2022

Sports

Olympics-Irish luger Desmond to fulfil frozen dream in Beijing

By Philip O’Connor

(Reuters) – Elsa Desmond is set to swap her hospital rounds for hurtling feet-first down the frozen track in Beijing after she was given a place in the luge competition at the Olympic Games as Ireland’s first woman in the event.

It will be a dream come true for the 24-year-old who recently qualified as a doctor and works in Britain’s National Health Service, after first watching the sport during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

“I saw it on TV when I was just a kid, and I thought it looked amazing, it just looked like a lot of fun,” Desmond, who shares a first name with one of the princesses in the hit Disney movie “Frozen”, told Reuters.

Although her Olympic story may read like a fairytale, the real-life Elsa is a lot tougher than her cartoon counterpart.

“I tried for about 10 years to get into the sport, and I eventually managed to get, as a civilian, onto a British Army ice sports camp as a teenager, and it just kind of went from there. I really, really enjoyed it and stuck with it,” she said.

As with all beginners, Desmond’s first trips down the ice started towards the end of the course, gingerly learning the skills needed at low speeds before progressing higher up.

Nowadays, she is no stranger to World Cup races and speeds of over 130 kilometres an hour and she has provided extra work for her colleagues in the medicine business.

“I’ve had a couple of small concussions, I’ve broken a foot, a couple of fingers – (injuries to) fingers and feet are very common in my sport. Other than that, just lots of bruises, but they heal quickly,” she said with a smile.

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Neither injury mishaps nor the workload during five years as a medical student could deter Desmond from her Olympic dream.

“When I watched the Olympics I didn’t see anyone from Ireland, any women from the U.K. in the luge, I didn’t see anyone that represented me, so I thought, ‘I’m going to go and represent me’,” she said.

Having originally set her sights on the 2026 Games in Milan, Desmond’s chance has come four years early and she is making her final preparations in Innsbruck, Austria before travelling to Beijing.

The track there is one few of the lugers know well, and Desmond is hoping to get good starts to her runs.

“They always say that a thousandth of a second at the start is like a tenth at the finish, it really multiplies … for me getting three solid, clean runs is really what I’m aiming for, and that will rank me wherever it ranks me,” she said.

For the girl raised in England in an Irish family, it will be an emotional experience to become an Olympian.

“I think the opening ceremony, I would not be surprised if I cry a lot. This has been a goal for as long as I can remember,” she said.

“To get to an Olympics, this is such a huge thing for me.”

(Reporting by Philip O’Connor, editing by Ed Osmond)

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