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Olympic Federation of Ireland Announce 'Athlete Centred' Partnership with Sport Ireland Institute

11th December 2018
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Fukuroi City and the Ecopa Stadium (above) have been selected as the pre-games training camp for Team Ireland prior to Tokyo 2020 Fukuroi City and the Ecopa Stadium (above) have been selected as the pre-games training camp for Team Ireland prior to Tokyo 2020

The Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI) and Sport Ireland Institute today announced a ground-breaking, athlete centred partnership agreement for performance support delivery for the period 2018-2022.

The OFI and Sport Ireland also announced that Fukuroi City in Japan will host the Team Ireland pre-Games Training Camp ahead of the Toyko 2020 Olympic Games. 

At the launch of the partnership Patricia Heberle was named as the Olympic Federation of Ireland’s Chef de Mission for the European Games 2019 in Minsk, and the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020. Previously the role of Chef de Mission was recruited internally or on a voluntary basis. This is the first time that it will be a professional, stand-alone role. 

The new partnership with Sport Ireland Institute will deliver a comprehensive performance support programme for Team Ireland, covering athlete life-skills, sports science and medicine as well as various Games readiness activities before, during and after Games time. 

Previously Irish Olympians did not always have the same medical support care team looking after their needs before, during and after Games. Instead, there was often a handover of care from one medical team to another at Games time. Following feedback from athletes post the Rio Games the OFI and Sport Ireland institute came together to put this new athlete centred support plan in place.

This new partnership aims to align all sport science and medical care so that athletes can perform to their full potential. The OFI and Sport Ireland have agreed to jointly fund this new partnership and it will be delivered through partnership with the OFI, Sport Ireland Institute, the National Governing Bodies and the Performance Directors. 

Speaking today, President of the Olympic Federation of Ireland Sarah Keane said,

“Today’s partnership agreement is a major step forward in placing the athlete first and comes at a crucial time as preparations for Tokyo gather pace. Our strategy is clear on the need to deliver for athletes. The appointment of Patricia Heberle as Chef de Mission in a stand-alone professional role, and the provision of Sport Science and Medical care from Sport Ireland Institute practitioners during games time makes this a very important day for High Performance sport in Ireland. Team Ireland is now functioning as a team with the whole system working together seamlessly for our athletes. I want to thank John Treacy and Sport Ireland, as well as my own Board for helping to bring it about.

CEO of Sport Ireland, John Treacy, said

“On behalf of Sport Ireland, we are delighted to see this new aligned approach in the Irish High-Performance System toward Olympic Games preparation and performance. The closer collaboration throughout the Olympic Games four-year cycle between the Olympic Federation of Ireland, Sport Ireland Institute, Sport Northern Ireland and the National Governing Bodies of sport will lead to more effective and targeted use of resources, increased performance support to Team Ireland and provide the all-important continuity of care to athletes. This is a big step forward and we’d like to congratulate all parties involved who have worked very hard to put this partnership in place.” 

The Olympic Federation of Ireland today also announced that it has appointed Patricia Heberle as its Chef de Mission for the European Games 2019 in Minsk, and the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.

Patricia, a former Australian hockey player, has been working since 2017 for the Olympic Federation of Ireland as its High Performance Lead and has recently been involved in leading the Sparking Performance programme for NGB Performance Directors through the Sport Ireland Institute.

Commenting, Peter Sherrard CEO of the Olympic Federation of Ireland said,

“Today we put in place three vitally important building blocks for the road to Tokyo. Firstly, Patricia Heberle’s appointment brings a wealth of expertise and the respect of Irish High Performance system. She is a key appointment for the Olympic Federation of Ireland as we prepare for the European Games in Minsk next year and the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020. Secondly, thanks to today’s landmark agreement with Sport Ireland Institute, Patricia will be operating a unified, seamless system, where the needs of the athlete are central and delivered in partnership with the Sport Ireland Institute. Thirdly, we have also identified a very strong pre-games training camp in Fukuroi, Japan. We have done a lot to get to this point but the real work starts now, and on the best possible footing. Together we are determined to deliver for the athletes who represent us on the world stage.”

Newly appointed Chef de Mission for the Olympic Federation of Ireland, Patricia Heberle commented,

“This role means a huge amount to me. I have participated in the three Olympic games both as an athlete and a coach and the opportunity to be Chef de Mission for Team Ireland is both a huge honour and a privilege.

“I am coming into the role at a very exciting time for Irish Sport, having been involved for some time in the Irish High Performance system. The people involved, the funding coming from Government and Sport Ireland is starting to deliver some really good results. The partnerships announced today are a huge step forward in ensuring that everyone is working together for the good of the athletes and their performances.”

Fukuroi City and the Ecopa Stadium facilities have been selected as the pre-games training camp for Team Ireland prior to Tokyo 2020.

Located 90 minutes to the west of Tokyo in the Shizuoka Prefecture, the city is connected directly to Tokyo by bullet train. The city hosts the famous Ecopa Stadium, indoor arena and athletics facilities. It will also be a host city to the Rugby World Cup and is due to host the Irish Rugby team for a week in 2019, providing a large number of opportunities to develop performance synergies ahead of 2020.

Fukuroi was selected after eight other locations in Japan were reviewed by representatives from Sport Ireland, the Institute, the Olympic Federation of Ireland and its Athletes’ Commission, and presents a very strong fit for the needs of Team Ireland prior to Tokyo 2020.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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