Siobhan Byrne, looking forward to her Olympic debut

August 6, 2008

She’ll be just four days shy of her 24th birthday and Siobhan is the first Irish fencer to make the Games since Michael O’Brien in 1992 in Barcelona after reaching the final of the qualifying event in Istanbul in April, fulfilling her dream of reaching an Olympics after narrowly missing out four years ago.

“It’s been going on for years actually because I just missed out on Athens by one spot and from then on I concentrated on these Olympics.”

To ensure she had the best chance of qualifying, Siobhan, who has just graduated in Health Information management Systems after four years at Ohio State University, changed her schedule.

“This season I actually did something I had never done before, I didn’t travel to any international competitions, I just concentrated on the US circuit just to be fresh and not tired and it paid off for me because at the qualifiers in Istanbul a lot of my opponents hadn’t seen me fence in over a year so they didn’t know what to expect and that gave me an advantage. It definitely was a gamble and it still is because of that I’m going into the competition as one of the lowest seeds and that means I’ll have to face one of the higher seeds right from the beginning but that’s what I needed to do in order to qualify because if I had done all the travelling as well as the competing for my University in the US I would have been burnt out and tired.”

Siobhan was born in Germany and started fencing at the age of eight and she admits had she been born in Ireland it’s unlikely she would have taken up the sport.

“Fencing is such a small sport and not mainstream and not a lot of people know that much about it in Ireland and a lot of other countries to so to represent Ireland in a small sport like fencing is amazing. I hope that my participation in the Games will bring a little more attention to fencing. It’s not a popular sport because it’s hard to understand and you can’t just go and do it anywhere like football. In fencing people don’t understand what it takes to be a world class athlete and don’t understand the rules but when you get into it then it’s fantastic, very tactical, aggressive and fast.”

Despite the disadvantage she’ll face in the draw, Siobhan isn’t deterred.

“I have a chance and I’m definitely going into the competition very positive, I’m not going in with the attitude that I’ve made the Olympics and that’s all that matters. I’m going to go in there and do my best and if I have a good day then I know I can beat anyone. I know I’ll be facing some tough competition and professional athletes which I’m not, I’ve been a full time student for four years and working as well and travelling and competing so to make the qualification is amazing, I’ve been fighting against all odds but that has made me a stronger person and I hope I can do well.”

The draw for the first round takes place on Thursday 7th August at 1.30pm in Beijing and Siobhan will be in action from 10am (Beijing), 3am (Ireland) on Saturday morning.

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