As the Olympics, remember them, kick off tomorrow Meath Live gives you five to follow in Tokyo.
Some you will have heard of before, some you have never heard of, and some you will never hear of again.
But when they are standing on the podium remember where you heard of them first.
1; Liam Jegou; Slalom
Born in Clare but based in France, Jegou had the honour of being the first Irish athlete selected for the Tokyo Olympics last year. Training alongside the best canoeists in Pau, the spiritual home of his sport, he made history last November by winning Ireland’s first-ever World Cup gold medal in the C1 category. Admittedly, the event took place on what is effectively his ‘home’ course in Pau. Nonetheless, it was a seminal breakthrough for the 25-year old.
His event is extremely challenging, even if it looks like a bloke rowing madly in a canoe.
Jegou must navigate a passage through 18 to 25 gates in just over 90 seconds. If any part of his boat, paddle or body touches a gate, then it significantly reduces his chances of a medal. If he misses a gate, he blows his chances.
Only 17 canoeists qualified to compete in the Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre in Tokyo. Currently ranked 38th in the world, Jegou has earned a unique opportunity to make history.
If ever a man was set to paddle his own canoe to glory it is Jegou.
2; Kellie Harrington; Boxing
Providing the three blind mice who oversaw Michael Conlon’s debacle at a previous games don’t get to judge her fights, Harrington looks a shoo in for a medal.
The draw has seen her receive a bye to the last 16 where she will face the winner of a first-round lightweight clash between an Italian and a Mexican. and the worst possible opponent Kellie could get is 40-year-old Mika Potkonen, who would pose a serious threat to Harrington’s ambitions.
The Finn ended Katie Taylor’s Olympic reign in Rio and has the Indian sign over Harrington, beating her in their four clashes since 2013.
Harrington’s a class act though and should come home with our first boxing medal since London 2012.
3; Annalise Murphy; Yachting
Otherwise known as ‘Yer woman in the boat’, Murphy already has a silver medal to her name and could be the one to make sure we all end up watching a sport we haven’t a clue about.
Nine years ago in London, she won four preliminary races and looked poised to secure the gold medal at one point. But everything changed in the final race and Murphy ended up in fourth.
Four years later, she wasn’t to be denied. She held her nerve in the final race in Rio to finish second and secure an Olympic silver medal.
Her form hasn’t been great of late, or so our man who once sat in a paddle boat tells us, but nothing beats experience at this level.
4; Rhys McClenaghan; Gymnastics(PommelHorse)
Rory isn’t the only county Down man representing us in Tokyo, this lad is from Newtownards and has a great chance, although while this horse doesn’t have a tail on it the whole country remembers only too well what happened the last time an Irish man won a medal on a horse.
In a very technical event with little margin for error McClenaghan is already Ireland’s most successful gymnast, winning gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and European Championships, before securing Ireland’s first-ever world championship medal – a bronze – in 2019 in Stuttgart.
5; Paul O’Donovan/Fintan McCarthy; Sculling
The best has been saved until last.
There’s a slightly recurring theme here, more boats on more water.
These two will be, to coin a phrase made popular by Paul and brother Gary when they won silver in Rio, pulling like dogs, Gary is the reserve this time around, and are the rightful favourites for the gold.
Though burdened with the unwanted tag of favourites, O’Donovan and McCarthy have every reason to be optimistic. Prior to the Rio Games, few outside the rowing community had heard of the O’Donovan brothers, Paul and Gary.
It wasn’t just their silver-medal performance which catapulted them into the Irish consciousness. Rather, it was their quirky humour and tall tales about eating spuds and rowing like dogs. This sideshow masked how deadly serious they were on the water.
All together now, ‘Row row row your boat’