Brendan Doyle in skeleton action

IN EARLY 1990s classic movie Cool Runnings, a Jamaican bobsleigh team take on the Olympics in a sport that’s so unsuited to their climate it makes for sensational comedy.
Based on a true story, the movie overlooks one key aspect: bobsleigh pace links closely with sprinting ability, and the Jamaicans are truly world class at that. In the world of winter sports, Ireland are arguably an even more unlikely contender.
Brendan Doyle, though, aims to do just that: compete. Doyle is currently campaigning to raise money to represent Ireland at the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018, following in the footsteps of Clifton Wrottesley’s unlikely fourth place for the Irish team in Salt Lake City back in 2002.
Doyle references Wrottesley as his inspiration, reflecting on his start in the sport: “In 2003, during one of my training sessions, I was approached by the Skeleton and Bobsleigh Association where they asked would I be interested in giving a skeleton sled a push.
“I jumped at the opportunity. I had recently seen Ireland finishing fourth in the Olympic games in 2002 so I was captivated by the sport.”
Overcoming serious injuries in his role as a member of An Garda Siochana and bouts of depression and insomnia, Dubliner Doyle has progressed incredibly well, using sport to help him progress other areas of his life.
He spent last week in Calgary, where he competed with world class sliders at two North American Cups, making a final and securing a top 20 finish. He’s getting sharper, and says his goals are “ever changing”.
Referencing Cool Runnings in describing his Dublin-based training – “like the movie, I concentrate on my sprint section at home. I use videos, too, but unlike Cool Runnings, I don’t do it in my bathtub” – Doyle explains the demands of his sports.
“Obviously my sport is a little insane and athletes require a certain personality type; we’re all a little crazy. Pushing ourselves down an ice track at 140kph head first you have to have a few screws loose, but at the time the mental strength to maintain composure under such pressure is something you just need.
“You need the physicality of an Olympic sprinter and mental agility of a chess player basically. In a sport where races are won and lost in thousandths of a second we can’t afford to be slow anywhere. So I train strength and speed.”
Doyle has set an ambitious target for the South Korean Olympics: making the final, a big challenge given the quality of international skeleton competition with day-to-day access to slopes.
“Making the final would be a big achievement,” he said. “There is so much to the sport, regardless of the start list.
“Things like ice temperature, air temp and weather can change everything, so a successful Olympic campaign is to get there and adapt to the conditions. Making the final is my goal, and I’ll take it from there.”
As for qualification, that will require Doyle to compete in a range of competitions to pick up points, outscoring other potential competitors in order to make it in South Korea.
So why the need for money? Doyle is fundraising through PledgeSport, in part because there’s little financial support in place for minority sports like this in Ireland.
“One thing I’m in desperate need of is a new sled and speed suit as the sled I have now is 12 years old and doesn’t meet standards for official competition. It will allow me to get ice time in training but when it comes to competition, it’s not allowed.
“So I have to try rely on the kindness of other sliders to lend me their sled. It’s not ideal because, in my sport, the slider and their sled are one and you need to be able to know how it will act on the track.”
Thus far, Doyle has raised €2,200 towards his Olympic dream with his fundraising campaign due to end on November 29. To support Brendan online, google “Pledge Sports Cool Runnings Ireland”, of track him down on Facebook at facebook.com/facedoyle.