Aoife Hoey has just missed out on competing in the Olympic Games on the past two occasions but is determined to make it third time lucky and qualify for the women’s bobsleigh at the Vancouver Games. The former triple jumper is the experienced driver of the Irish team, while two potential brakewomen, Claire Bergin and Leona Bryne, are battling hard to impress during training ahead of the upcoming European Cup season to secure the position as her first-choice team-mate at next year’s Games.
How did you get into bobsleigh?
I was a track and field athlete so when the Irish Olympic Council held trials at the National Stadium to identify candidates for a women’s bobsleigh team, I took part. As a triple jumper, I knew I had the power and speed to be the right sort of athlete for bobsleigh. I was only 16 and too young to be considered as it turned out but I was determined to get involved as soon as I was old enough. At that time, my sister Siobhan was part of the team.
I trained hard and as soon as I turned 18, I was invited to join the squad. For the first couple of years I was the brakewoman, but ever since I have been the driver of the team.
Are you a full-time athlete or do you have to work as well?
I have to work for a living. Our season runs from October to February but I am fortunate enough to work for the Irish Track & Field Association who are very understanding of my situation and allow me to take my leave around the competition. During the off-season I fit our training schedule around my 8am – 4pm office hours. We’ll be doing lots of gym-based power and endurance work, Claire and Leona are both students so they have been able to balance their training around their studies.
How is the Olympic Solidarity Scholarship helping your Olympic dream?
The Solidarity support enables us to travel and compete around the world and also to practise as, perhaps not surprisingly, Ireland doesn’t have a bobsleigh track. Last summer we were able to train and compete on the old Olympic track at Lake Placid in the Americas Cup, which turned out to be a very successful trip as we finished fourth in two races, beating a number of American athletes. It is very costly just to fly the bob over which illustrates the expenses involved in the event – it’s almost like the Formula One of winter sports – and the Solidarity support makes a big difference. When it comes to training, our local track is probably in Austria, so there is a lot of travelling involved. We have a bob that we use at home with wheels on to practise starts and do some strength work but there’s no substitute for getting out there on the track.
How confident are you of qualifying to compete in Vancouver?
There are only 20 teams allowed to compete in the women’s bobsleigh at the Olympic Games and with each of the leading countries such as Germany, USA and Canada given two slots it makes it a very difficult task just to get to Vancouver. But it is well within our capabilities and we are confident that we can do it. If and when we qualify, then we’ll look at setting goals for the competition.
Have you studied the daunting Whistler track (left) yet or would that be tempting fate?
I’ve seen footage of the Olympic course on the television and the Internet and it certainly looks as fast and technical as people say. If we qualify then we will try and see if there’s any way we could get some time on the track before the Games start.