Swords Woman was the only Irish volunteer at the Tokyo Olympics

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""Olympic Games"" – Google News

Swords’ Catriona Walsh is the only Irish volunteer to have a unique story to tell at the recent Tokyo Olympics.

n idea that started as a novel way to celebrate a birthday, Catriona threw her teeth at a global pandemic and found it at a year-delayed Olympics with no spectators in the arena but millions at home.

Alone, she hoisted the flag for Ireland in relation to the volunteers of the Games, just as our athletes hoisted the flag for the nation in the sports arena, but there were no gold medals for the volunteers, only gold memories and some precious souvenir pins.

Catriona explains the background of her participation: “At the end of 2019 I started thinking about my upcoming big birthday in July 2020.

“I saw an ad on Horse Sport Ireland’s website to help organize the Tokyo Olympics.

“The Tokyo Olympic Committee was looking for experienced riders to help organize the equestrian games in the various equestrian disciplines.

“I mentioned it to my husband John, who saw it as a golden opportunity and that I should take it.

“Lots of application documents later and I was finally accepted. I would pay for the airfare while the board is responsible for accommodation, food, training and uniforms. “

But then of course the global pandemic struck and not only was Catriona’s participation in the games questioned, the event itself had an uncertain future.

Catriona recalls: “As the pandemic continued to rage, it seemed likely that it would never happen.

“Last February, I received an email telling me that the games would be in July 2021 and that I would be in for PCR testing, a monitoring health app, an isolation phase, regular testing, and limited exercise Tokyo could commit.

“A limited number of volunteers would be accepted depending on their experience in the particular sport. I said yes please! It turned out that I was one of the lucky few and the only Irish who left.”

Fast forward to the games this summer, and Catriona was understandably concerned about what to expect and was nervous about the hoops she had to jump through when she arrived in Japan as volunteers faced a similar rigid regime of Covid restrictions how they did their job.

She recalls, “I was very worried before I left.

“I didn’t know if I could enter or what job I would be doing when I arrived. I had joined the Facebook volunteer group, so I had some American contacts before I left.

“I arrived in Tokyo on July 19th, a few days before the competition started.

“We had to report directly to a Japanese liaison officer. There were about 50 foreigners in my group, we had to stay in our work bubble.

“We all had a Covid test every three days. For the first 14 days of my stay in Tokyo, I could only leave my bedroom to go to work.”

But soon all the inconvenience the pandemic caused to athletes and volunteers alike was forgotten as the sport began.

Caitriona says, “I forgot all about it when I got to the stunning venues.

“I was told that I would be working with the Omega Time Team in the judges’ enclosure. Omega is the Official Timekeeper of the Olympic Games, but they also record the results of the competitors.

“My first job was to record and tag the videos of the Pure Dressage riders. I had to sit in the judges box in the main arena.

“I had to learn the dressage test and follow the riders while riding. I had to mark the video before any movement and mark the video.

“This was used by the FEI officials next to me to track the movements of the tests. Everything in real time, that was very intensive work and you really had to concentrate.

“The judges and officials were very helpful and supportive, making me feel very welcome. Drivers and coaches were very grateful for our help. And I got the best seat in the house to see the best performances in the world.”

Catriona explains: “A few days later I’m in the main arena for the three-day Olympic eventing phase. I worked on the live scoring for the dressage judge. What is shown on the big arena screen is quite a nerve-wracking job.

“In the cross country phase I was the judge for number 23, the last fence on the route. We had rehearsal days before the event, where we practiced for every possible scenario, jump, fall, loose horse, injuries … we have practiced it all.

“On the day of the competition, we had to be on the track for the start at 7.30am at 4am.

“The competitions took place very early or late in the day, as the heat reached 35 ° C in the middle of the day and the humidity was very high.

“The health and well-being of the horses came first. Over half a billion people watched the event on television. Oops – no pressure! “

Catriona adds: “For the jumping phase of versatility and pure show jumping. I stayed in the judge’s box and recorded the participants’ scores. I had to run and learn the course and manage the laptop entries while following the drivers from the judges’ box. Record the results before the next driver enters the arena. “

It was a fascinating experience for Catriona and like no other she will take back many great memories from her time in Tokyo at these Olympic Games.

She says, “I had a few other interesting roles and met great characters. Chris Elliot was one of the senior veterinarians for the Olympics.

“I was his point of contact to organize helpers for the vets who were distributed around the main arena and warm-up exercises. I also had the task of organizing my team to check the driver accreditation at the gates for the course hikes. “

Catriona adds: “Most of the volunteers were like me, were unpaid and took this time as a vacation.

“Some were vets, farriers, and others from all walks of life. Just working as a community to help make this event happen was great and making friends for life was great! I am still amazed at the opportunities Tokyo was offered to me.

“Trading pins is a really big deal. It’s a great way to get to know each other, where people are from and what their roles are! I’ve done pretty well, so well that I had to let some of them stay in my room because I rang the alarm bells every time I walked into the venue. “

Speaking of the experience, Swords Olympic Volunteer says, “I can definitely say that running and volunteering at our local Jprse shows prepared me really well.

“I would encourage everyone to become more involved in their own associations.

“The jury is always happy to talk about their passion and teach us what to do. It was definitely an unforgettable birthday! “

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