*Liam Jegou. Photograph: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Clare-born canoeist Liam Jegou has become the first Irish athlete to be formally selected for the Tokyo Olympics this summer.
Born in Ballyvaughan, Liam is based in France. The twenty four year old will compete in the C1 category at the Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre in Tokyo on July 26th/27th. He will become only the second ever Irish athlete to compete in the event at the Olympics, Mike Corcoran competed in the 1996 Olympics at Atlanta, the same year Jegou was born.
A winner of a silver medal at the 2014 Junior World Championships and a bronze at the 2019 U-23 World Championships, Liam was nominated for the Olympics slot after finishing on top in the three-race selection criteria, which included the World Championships in Spain, the event in which Ireland secured the coveted Olympic berth courtesy of Robert Hendrick, another talented Irish racer.
His World bronze medal last July saw Liam produce the finest run of his career and clocked the fastest time of the day in 88.97 seconds. However two penalty seconds brought his time up to 91.97.
Speaking following his selection, Liam outlined, “Being an Olympian has always been one of my biggest dreams. I started training when I was 11 or 12, the past month has been unbelievable knowing that I am going to compete for Team Ireland in the Olympics.
“In my sport the Olympics is everything, it’s what everyone works for in their sport. It’s such a select thing; there’s only one athlete per nation that gets to go and when you to go you just want to give it your all. Most people only get to go to the Games once or twice in their lives, and I’m certainly not going to let the opportunity pass me.”
Expected humid conditions in Japan won’t bother the Clare athlete. “I’m not too worried. I think we’ve got the perfect sport for it, we’re in the water all the time. We’re used to warm conditions as well. In 2018, the world championships were in Rio, so you can’t get any worse than that. We came second at the Junior World Championships in 2014 in Australia, so I’m well used to the heat. That won’t bother me.”
Canoeing Ireland Performance Director Jon Mackey felt Liam’s section would reap great benefits for the sport. “It’s big for any sport to qualify for an Olympic Games. For canoeing, it’s great for the exposure of the sport, we are relatively small, and it’s great to tap into the proud tradition of Irish canoeing at the Olympic Games”.