Historic Olympic Qualification in Women’s Team Pursuit

Posted in: Track Racing, Women's Cycling
By Jennifer Bonham, CI Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Apr 16, 2024 - 7:41:29 PM

Breaking Barriers:
Ireland Secures Historic Olympic Qualification in Women’s Team Pursuit


- Ireland secures historic first-ever Women’s Team Pursuit Olympic qualification

- Achievement seals spots in Women’s Omnium and Women’s Madison events at 2024 Paris Olympic Games

- ‘Testimony to the knowledge and tenacity of staff and riders’ – Cycling Ireland High Performance Director Iain Dyer

Ireland has made sporting history by securing a ground-breaking first-ever qualification for the Women’s Team Pursuit event at the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

The milestone achievement, confirmed at the conclusion of the successful qualification period on April 15th, places Ireland among the elite nations in track cycling and marks a significant progression for the Irish Track squad.

Historic Milestone for Irish Cycling

The qualification in the Women’s Team Pursuit event also guarantees Ireland spots in the Women’s Omnium and Women’s Madison events on the track at the Paris Olympic Games. This accomplishment underscores the High Performance Unit’s strategic focus on women’s endurance events, which began following the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 and intensified with the appointment of National Track Coach Dan Henchy in July 2022.

Cycling Ireland High Performance Director Iain Dyer praised the achievement, describing it as a ‘testimony’ to the dedication and expertise of the riders and team staff:

“It’s notable that in the Women’s Team Pursuit we have outqualified several nations with strong track programmes and cycling cultures, and not least of all plenty of nations that have their own indoor velodromes. I think it’s a testimony to the knowledge and tenacity of staff and riders alike, that we developed a sound strategy and could execute it.

“With the way the rankings work, you almost feel like you have to qualify to qualify, and that process begins over a year away from the Olympic qualification process itself, so it’s felt full-on for the entire Olympic cycle to be in this position, especially with having to train away from home constantly. There’s no doubt there’s lots of young athletes with big track potential in our system but not having a home indoor facility yet remains a significant barrier.”

Consistent Progress and Record-Breaking Performances

Since the Tokyo Olympics, Ireland has demonstrated consistent improvement and competitiveness against the world’s strongest track cycling nations. The unit has shattered the national record multiple times, with the current record standing at an impressive 4:15.698 as of March 2024, down from 4:21.368 in September 2021.

The Women’s Team Pursuit unit, which includes Alice Sharpe, Kelly Murphy, Lara Gillespie, Mia Griffin, Emily Kay (who retired at the end of the 2023 season), and Erin Creighton (who joined the unit at the beginning of the 2023 season), delivered a decisive performance at last month’s Hong Kong round of the UCI Tissot Track Nations Cup, setting a national record and clinching a silver medal to cap off their qualification campaign in style.

Strategic Focus on Women’s Endurance Events

Dyer explained the team’s strategic approach to qualifying for the Paris Olympic Games, highlighting the unique challenges and advantages of the qualification pathway:

“There are various mechanisms to qualify for the track events in Paris, such as a narrower set of events to target over the two years, including European Championships, Nations Cups and of course the World Championships. The qualification pathway favours team events, as it also offers places for the other endurance events, the Madison and the Omnium. We opted to target the Team Pursuit for our strategy to qualify for all three.”

“In an instance we had only one solo performer in a given event, you really feel like you are fighting the system somewhat. That individual must be virtually one of the top riders in the world consistently over those two years to stand a chance of qualifying. Unfortunately, it became apparent very early on that the chances to qualify other quota spots like that was an impossible task, so our focus narrowed to the women’s endurance events.”


Next Steps and Preparations for the Paris Olympic Games

Attention now turns to nominating the team to the Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI), which will select the final team for the Paris Olympic Games. The team will also participate in a pre-games training camp in Mallorca to fine-tune their preparations before the Games.

The Track Cycling events at the 2024 Olympic Games will take place from August 5th to 11th. Ireland will also be represented on the road, with places secured in the men’s road race and time trial events, as well as the women’s road race.

Dyer added:

“The nomination process is a little different to the way we’d normally make selections, and such is the eligibility criteria there are just five athletes from which to nominate. We’ll be seeking expressions of interest from those athletes this week and will proceed in line with the published policy. Actual selection by the OFI comes later and team announcements will all follow via Team Ireland.”

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