Local links to Beijing Winter Olympics hopes

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Maggie Rose Carrigan, a snowboard star with ties to Athlone. Photo: Olympic Federation of Ireland.

Maggie Rose Carrigan defied the odds to compete in snowboarding after being diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of ten.

Now she is aiming for qualification for the Beijing Winter Olympics in the parallel giant slalom and is currently competing on the World Cup circuit.

Maggie Rose is named after her grandmother Margaret and her great aunt Rose, a member of the Shine family who grew up in the town of Drumlosh, near Drum, on the Roscommon side of Athlone.

At eleven, Maggie Rose had to have two 14-inch rods inserted into her back and was repeatedly advised to stop snowboarding. She had to abstain from all activity for an entire year, but still found another way to pursue her passion.

Maggie Rose’s grandmother, Margaret, and several of her eight siblings emigrated to the United States of America, where she met her second-generation husband at an “Irish dance”.

Margaret is now the matriarch of their large Irish-American family in Newark, New Jersey, and Maggie Rose accompanied her to Ireland and visited the family grave in Clonmacnois.

After suffering the failure to not qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics, Maggie Rose decided to compete for Ireland.

“I had to decide if I wanted to quit or approach things another way and that’s when I transferred to compete for Ireland,” she said.

She had obtained her Irish passport three years earlier and is particularly close to her paternal grandmother Margaret.

“I’m named after my grandmother and her sister Rose, who was my father’s godmother,” said Maggie Rose.

“My dad grew up in New Jersey but loved cross country skiing and at 18 he came here to study business at Colorado Mountain College and now runs a ski equipment sales business.”

The chances of Maggie Rose Carrigan becoming a competitive snowboarder, let alone chasing Olympic qualification, were astronomical when she received devastating news as a child.

Until then, his life in Steamboat Springs, Colorado was idyllic.

“In winter, it’s like a snow globe, a dream. We call it ‘hero snow’ because it’s so perfect you can do whatever you want with it. I also grew up by a lake so in the summer we do water skiing and wake-surfing and always outdoors.

His sister Tory was on the US halfpipe team and his brother Lex was the junior world champion. Tory and Lex are twins and are ten years older, so she inevitably followed in their athletic wake. But at age ten, Maggie Rose was diagnosed with scoliosis. She must have had two 14-inch rods inserted into her back and she was repeatedly advised to stop.

Flips and jumps were no longer possible but she could still ride if she switched to alpine snowboarding, the speed discipline of the sport that has no aerial element.

“On my 12th birthday, the owner of a board business, who was friends with my dad, sent me an alpine board and I discovered that I could still get the speed and adrenaline,” said recalls Maggie Rose.

“I couldn’t even bend down to buckle my bindings the first day I put it on, but I quickly got into the groove and from that point on, it was always ‘alpine’ for me. “

Alpine snowboards are longer and narrower to control speed. Riders wear stiff boots and bindings similar to skiers and run, in parallel in pairs, on the slalom and giant slalom courses.

“People often confuse our boards with monoskis, but giant slalom was actually the first Olympic snowboard sport,” Carrigan explained.

Less than four years after changing, she had won her first North American Championship (Nor-Am).

“It opened up a whole new level. After I finished high school, I went to Switzerland for a year to compete in the European and World Cups, competing with runners I had watched on TV for so long.

Maggie Rose had heard of Irish snowboarder Seamus O’Connor on the vine, so when she wondered if she could represent Ireland it was her first stopover.

She thinks it’s no coincidence that she got her best international result – a 22nd in parallel slalom at the 2018 World Cup in Cortina d’Ampezzo (Italy) – after joining the Irish squad. She also finished 25th at the 2019 World Championships in Park City and placed in the top 40 in the world that season.

She has since graduated in elementary education and during the off-season (April-October) teaches toddlers at Holy Name Kindergarten resulting in very small and cute cheerleaders every time. that it runs locally.

“It took me four years to graduate because I trained and ran, but it was worth it. I am as passionate about education as I am about snowboarding so I will have it when I retire.

At the moment, she is totally focused on Olympic qualification. She opened her World Cup season in Bannoye (Russia) in early December and will play two more (Carezza and Cortina ‘in Italy) before returning home just in time for Christmas.

After all she’s been through, she is particularly keen to advocate for sports and scoliosis awareness.

“If I hadn’t caught it it could have been so bad again, if I had caught it sooner I might not even have had to have surgery, so it’s very important to have it.” make known.

“A young girl at my school was having surgery and I got to talk to her, show her my scar and explain everything. Helping others understand is huge for me,” added Maggie Rose.

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