This is a blog extract from Irish Skeleton athlete Brendan Doyle
After a challenging Olympic season, battling with injury and doing what I could to try to make the games, I took a month to decompress. I had a choice, walk away from the sport and pursue my professional aspirations or use what I went through to fuel 4 years of training and competition. I returned training hungrier than ever, almost like I had a new gear I wasn’t aware of. I started from scratch in the gym and on the track to make my old weaknesses my strengths. I had a very successful offseason of training, speed went up, strength and power went up and most importantly I was healthy the whole time.
To further push my campaign I gained a partnership with the Canadian Skeleton team, this to me, was on par with a lottery. Gaining the expertise of the training staff and having more help at each track really makes a world of difference. I was so excited to get back on the ice, but funding was always the bottleneck to my progression, and this season was no exception. I’ve been contacting companies, pushing social media trying my very best to get the help I need. I’ve invested every penny to my name into this sport, hoping that my investment will prove how serious and how dedicated I am to this sport.
I was lucky to have some people who had my back and we scraped enough money together to get out in October so I could train in Whistler, BC, Canada. This is the track where I’ll be competing on at this season’s World Championships, it was the venue to the 2010 Winter Olympics games and it’s the fastest ice on the planet. My pre-season training was going very well, and I was outperforming my own expectations. I’m finally on the right path, the whole time I’m keeping an eye on my bank account.
Money was a big source of stress, I would do anything to make sure I had enough money to stay out on ice. I would skip meals, not get physiotherapy just anything I could to reduce costs in an extremely expensive sport. Despite this, my belief in my own ability, and how well my season was going I managed to maintain focus on sliding.
My first competition was in Whistler, BC. The field was stacked with some seriously strong competition some of which were World Cup level, but to me, I race against the track, which is where my focus was. I finished in 13th which was a fantastic finished, I was bested by World cup sliders and for me, the win was two consistent race performances. These are the markers I look for in my progression over the next 4 years.
I was on a high after that, but I was sitting back in my apartment looking up flights back to Ireland, but I had enough cash to get to Park City, Utah which was the next stop on tour, but if I flew there I wouldn’t have the funds to get back. Again having to rely on others I was told to book the flights to Utah and we will figure the rest as we go. This was absolutely nerve-wracking to me. The uncertainty of if I could afford food, and all the other costs, and not even having the money to fly back home, but I got myself to the ice and I tried my best to focus on the sliding.
I am so glad I took this chance because I returned to Park City and I was sliding so well, again consistent every run within a hundredth of the last. This is key in my sport because you can start making changes to steers, entrance and even equipment set up and I can see how it changes my downtime. My consistency paid off in competition with my first career medal. I was overjoyed, again this was ahead of where I thought I would be.
With one competition left before December, I was absolutely gutted to not be able to compete. I got enough money to pay for a flight home two days before I was due to leave the accommodation. You see some athletes have the backing of their federation which has substantial budgets to allow them to perform in an extremely difficult and competitive sport. Having that backing allows the athletes to use your energy on training and preparation, to do their job and represent their country.
With how crowdfunding has taken off, there are many voices, so many campaigns for a variety of causes. I feel like sometimes I’m just another voice at the shouting match but I want to stress one thing. I put my everything into this, coming from Ireland taking up Skeleton is not a normal pursuit, but it’s something I’ve dedicated myself to. Crowdfunding is a lifeline to the many athletes who are on the cusp of breaking to the next level. A successful campaign can get an athlete to the point of World level competition, cooperate sponsorships, endorsements and even medals.
The small donation you make adds up and when anyone makes that small donation it all adds up. That donation directly goes to, in my case the Irish flag being on the start line of a competition start list, and that flag steadily creeping up world rankings.
I’ve had an extremely interesting path (not by design) to this point in my life and I’ve a great appreciation for both the success and fallbacks I’ve encountered, but representing my country is just about the most incredible thing I’ve ever done and I take immense pride in doing so. I’ve been taken back by some of the generosity shown by supporters, but right now I’m at crisis point. I need to raise the funds so I can get back on ice, to train and compete in the run up to the World Championships in Whistler BC in early 2019.
Skeleton may be an individual sport but it takes a team effort to get me to the start block. That includes every single donation made.
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