"Watching Irish athletes perform is truly mind-blowing" - Chef de Mission Denis Toomey
The gears are well and truly in motion for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio this coming Setpember, and with a lot of work going on behind the scenes, we caught up with Chef de Mission, Denis Toomey, with just under 90 Days to go to see how preparations are coming along.
As Chef de Mission, Denis is in charge of the operational preparation and participation of Team Ireland at Rio 2016 and is certainly relishing the task that lies ahead - one he has been looking forward to since his appointment as Chef in 2014 - and though the pressure is cranking up, he feels that preparations are going as smoothly as can be expected.
“There still are many hurdles to overcome,” he said. “I’m confident that with the team we have put together we will make everything happen on time. We’re on track at the moment and hopefully everything will continue to fall into place in the coming weeks and months.”
Team Ireland is expected to feature approximately 45 athletes across 10 different sports, with 30+ support staff and the logistical difficulties of having everybody in the right place at the right time are certainly not lost on Denis.
“The thought of organising it has given me more than a few sleepless nights!” he said. “It's not just people we need to get to Rio but also horses, boats and bikes that all have to make the 9,000km journey safely.”
With the team being officially announced on July 5th, there's only a few weeks left for athletes to make the cut.
“Many of the athletes are still on the qualification trail,” Denis said. “Therefore it is impossible to be fully prepared when you don’t know exactly who will be on the plane to Rio, but we're definitely getting there and will be delighted to announce the final selection on July 5th in City Hall."
Denis alongside Performance Director, Dave Malone, have some firm targets in sight at this year's Games - not least of these being an eight-medal haul and a finish in the top 30 medal table. Anything after that would really be a massive boost to the squad, and Toomey is hopeful that the team may exceed all expectations.
“While there is definitely potential for eight medals to be won, we could also hopefully see a few surprises,” he said. “Hopefully we can create a few shocks along the way!"
But it is not just the medal haul that signifies a successful Paralympics for Ireland. Raising the profile of the sport is a big priority for Paralympics Ireland and now, thanks to the recent announcement by national broadcaster RTÉ who have committed to covering the 2016 Games, the highs and lows of this year's Games will be coming to you directly into your sitting room.
“The announcement by RTÉ on the '100 Days to Rio' mark was absolutely fantastic and shows a growing relationship between Paralympics Ireland and the broadcaster. I would advise the public that if they only do one thing this September than it should be tuning into the Paralympic Games,” said Denis. “It is so much better than anything else that will be on TV at the time - better than reality TV, and other big games. The way our athletes overcome - what to most of us would be adversity - to compete at an elite level on the world stage is awesome and mind blowing.”