Irish rowing star Paul Griffin missed out on becoming the third athlete to represent Ireland in both the summer and winters Olympics – and he’s not too happy about it.
In less than 18 months Griffin has transformed himself into an Olympic standard cross-country skier but he was overlooked for the upcoming Games after Scottish-born PJ Barron was selected ahead of him.
The only two Irish athletes to compete in both forms of the Olympics are fellow rower Pat McDonagh and javelin thrower Terry McHugh who were part of the Ireland bobsleigh team in 1992 Winter Olympics.
Speaking to The Kingdom, Griffin said: ‘It’s gutting alright. I think that a great opportunity has been lost here. It’s not as if I didn’t qualify. I was available to be selected as I had reached the qualification standards.
‘I went through the qualification process. I got the points. But unfortunately the powers-that-be selected a guy who was skiing with the British team up until March 2008 and who transferred to Ireland in December 2008.
‘I did a race in Sweden on my own and he was there, getting coached by a British fella on the line who was taking his times. And he was wearing an Irish singlet.
‘He had an advantage on me as he was allowed to live outside the country but was still allowed qualify under the Irish system, which is of a lower qualification standard then the British system.
‘He was seventh or eighth in the British team and if he had stayed with them he wouldn’t have qualified for the Olympics. But he invoked his right to get an Irish passport.’
The two-time Olympic rower is now likely to set his sights, once again, on the rowing competition at the London Olympics in 2012.
He added: ‘I will probably go back rowing but if I do that then I need to get back in the boat fairly soon. I need to get rowing strong again. At the moment I am fairly fit but I need to get rowing strong again.
‘I would like to imagine that competing in London will be the long-term goal but I know from experience that it’s a long road.
‘In reality I will have to play it by ear and see how I am getting on because I will be two and a half years older by the time the Games come around.
‘I need to get myself in the position where I am at Olympic rowing standard again and there has to be something there for me to go back into.
‘The lightweight four is the only event that I am interested in.
‘Because I have been involved in another sport for the last year and a half and because I have reached the Olympic qualification standard for another sport, I have realised that rowing in itself is quite a simple sport. There is nothing complicated in it,’ he said.
‘In cross-country skiing there might be 160 people in the race and you could fall and lose 30 seconds but rowing is very controlled, the environment is very controlled. It’s 2km long, the lanes are straight and there are very little variables that can impact on your speed, expect yourself.
‘But that means that when everything is the same, you have to rely on your strength and physical power – that’s why rowing is so tough.’