The 2022 Winter Olympics officially gets underway today and for Team Ireland's athletes, it’s the culmination of years of hard work.

Six Irish athletes will compete in the Winter Olympics, based across two villages - Yangqing and Zhangjiakou - with Irish action running from 6 February until 19 February.

Team Ireland, led by flagbearers Brendan Newby and Elsa Desmond, will be marching into the stadium as the 65th nation in the athlete’s parade, with coverage on the RTÉ News channel and the RTÉ Player from 11:30am.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Chef de Mission Nancy Chillingworth paid tribute to the Irish team, who have all made significant sacrifices on the road to Beijing.

"We have a team of six which matches the biggest ever Winter Olympics team for Team Ireland and in relation to expectations, there’s a mix," she said.

"There’s a mix of experience on the team. We have Seamus O’Connor who is attending his third Games and then we have athletes like Jack Gower and Elsa Desmond where it’s their first.

"For all of the athletes really the real challenge was getting here and just being able to compete. The qualification process kept getting changed because of Covid and restrictions.

"In terms of expectations, if athletes can come here to the biggest stage of all and do a personal best, that’s absolutely all anyone could ask for.

"Predominately within winter sports, because it’s so small, a lot of them are self-funded. They get a certain amount of support through the IOC scholarship programme and we manage to provide a certain amount of support but a lot of it is off their own back.

"They travel the world chasing qualification and competing, so it’s a huge achievement."

The first Irish athlete to compete will be Jack Gower, who together with Thomas Maloney Westgaard will be skiing on Sunday. Gower will be competing in the Downhill event, and also spoke about the culture within the team.

"It’s been amazing," he said. "Although this is my first Olympic experience, it’s been a unique one with Covid. It’s pretty important to have a good core team, because we are spending a lot of time with each other as there is not as much mixing with teams as there normally would be.

"We have a great group here which is making the experience really enjoyable.

"Practice has been going well and I’ve been pretty fast. Today was our first official training run, it wasn’t my best day but really nice to get going and get started.

"The hill they’ve created is quite a challenging hill, but the snow is very aggressive, so the speeds we are hitting are not as fast as normal. It’s around 140kmph which for us is not so fast. It’s challenging but the snow takes the sting out of the tail for sure."

Watch daily highlights of the 2022 Winter Olympics on the RTÉ News channel at 3pm, with clips of the action on RTÉ Sport Online, the RTÉ News app and RTÉ Sport's social media channels