Wexford slider Pat Shannon holds no fears of the fastest track in the world as he relishes the prospect of the men’s skeleton competition which starts at the Whistler Sliding Center tonight.
The 32-year-old was persuaded to take up the sport after watching fellow Irishman Lord Clifton Wrottesley come from nowhere to claim a surprise fourth place in Salt Lake City in 2002.
And it is not a decision he regrets despite fears over track safety arising out of last week’s tragic death of the Georgian luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili in a training accident on the same course.
Shannon completed his final two training runs in 24th place and said: “I love the track because as well as being the fastest in the world it’s also very challenging and it really makes you think.
“Of course I was nervous at first after what happened last week but after the first couple of runs the nerves went away.
“Skeleton is completely different to luge and there are no problems safety-wise.”
Shannon only took up the sport in 2003 so he does not harbour realistic hopes of emulating Wrottesley, who returned to the Games in 2006 as the Republic of Ireland team’s chef de mission before retiring from the sport.
Shannon was funded sufficiently by the Olympic Council of Ireland and the ISC to compete on the World Cup circuit with a view to meeting the qualification criteria for the Games, but admits it is a struggle.
He added: “I haven’t set myself any particular goals because I don’t want to put any pressure on myself. I don’t have the same level of experience as guys who’ve been sliding for 10 or 15 years.
“The sport’s still hugely unknown in Ireland and it’s hard to get sponsorship back home. But I’ve given it a good go and every time I compete with these guys I’m getting a little better.”