Tokyo 2020: Who are Northern Ireland's 31 Olympians in Japan?

By Andy GrayBBC Sport NI
The Olympic Stadium in Tokyo
Against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics will take place with almost no spectators in attendance

In a massive summer of sport, few things can match the Olympic Games for sheer spectacle.

Even with the Covid-19 pandemic ensuring it will be a more muted two weeks than usual, 31 athletes from Northern Ireland will make the trip to Japan for their sporting pilgrimage.

It's an opportunity for some athletes to fulfil their goals, others to deliver on potential and some to be the unlikely heroes.

From all corners of Northern Ireland, here are the 30 athletes who will be representing their country on sport's biggest stage.

Hockey

Katie Mullan, Shirley McCay, Zara Malseed, Ian Sloan, David Ames, Lizze Colvin and Ayeisha McFerran

Northern Ireland will be represented in hockey more than any other sport at the Tokyo Games, which is perhaps unsurprising given the number of key players involved in Ireland's fairytale World Cup run in 2018.

Katie Mullan captains Ireland for their maiden Games and Ayeisha McFerran will be the number one goalkeeper between the posts.

Shirley McCay and Lizzie Holden were also named in the 16-player panel, while Zara Malseed will go to Japan as a travelling reserve.

There's also representation for Great Britain as Northern Irish duo David Ames and Ian Sloan take part in the men's tournament.

Triathlon

Russell White

Talk about leaving it late, Russell White secured the final spot at the Olympics after five triathlons in as many weeks, spanning three continents.

The Banbridge athlete had to wait on his place to be confirmed after initially finishing outside the qualifying places following his five-race hail, however the retirement of Denmark's Andreas Schilling offered him a reprieve and he will get to fulfil his Olympic dream in Japan this summer.

Shooting

Kisty Hegarty

Kirsty Hegarty secured Great Britain's trap shooting place at the Games as far back as April 2019 and was the first Northern Irish athlete to book a ticket to Tokyo when she was selected in January.

She will be hoping to repeat her medal-winning display from the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, where she clinched a bronze medal for Northern Ireland.

Cycling

Mark Downey

Dromore cyclist Mark Downey will feel he has an outside shot at medal as he takes to the track for Ireland this summer.

Downey will race in the men's madison with team-mate Felix English. There's also a chance he could compete in the omnium, however a decision has yet to be made whether the 25-year-old or English will get the nod.

Archery

Patrick Huston

Setting his standards high, archer Patrick Huston has said he "wants a bit of bling" as he aims for a double gold medal for Great Britain.

The 25-year-old, an Olympian from the Rio Games in 2016, is aiming for the top prize in the individual and team events.

Golf

Rory McIlroy and Stephanie Meadow

Northern Ireland's two golfers at the Olympics need little introduction. Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy (you may have heard of him) will line up alongside reigning Open champion Shane Lowry for Ireland in the men's event.

Ireland's pairing for the women's event is also strong, with Jordanstown's Stephanie Meadow competing with the in-form Leona Maguire.

Boxing

Aidan Walsh, Michaela Walsh, Kurt Walker and Brendan Irvine

Irish boxers have a strong pedigree with the Olympics games and the entry for the 2020 edition is no different, with a chance of four medals coming back to Northern Ireland.

Siblings Aidan and Michaela Walsh will be hoping to challenge for medals in Tokyo, with Michaela competing in the flyweight class and younger sibling Aidan entered in the welterweight division.

Lisburn's Kurt Walker will be aiming for a medal in the featherweight class and Brendan Irvine cannot be discounted in the flyweight discussion.

Gymnastics

Rhys McClenaghan

Is this Rhys McClenaghan's time to shine? The Newtownards gymnast is set to resume his rivalry with GB's Max Whitlock on the pommel horse and it is one event not to be missed this summer.

McClenaghan already has Commonwealth and European gold (both won in 2018), plus a World Championship bronze medal from 2019 in his back pocket. It's an impressive catalogue of medals and the 21-year-old will be hoping to add the big one to his collection.

Swimming

Danielle Hill, Jack McMillan and Daniel Wiffen

It was last-chance saloon for Larne swimmer Danielle Hill but she delivered in style to book her place in the women's 100m backstroke at the Tokyo Games with an Irish record.

Armagh's Daniel Wiffen will compete in the men's 800m freestyle event while Bangor's Jack McMillan will compete for Ireland in the men's 4x200m freestyle relay team.

Athletics

Ciara Mageean, Stephen Scullion, Leon Reid, Paul Pollock, Eilish Flanagan, Kevin Seaward
Stephen Scullion (top centre) withdrew from the Olympics on Saturday

Ciara Mageean is selected for the 1,500m and knows a big performance in Japan could see her end up with a shot at a medal.

The backdrop surrounding Leon Reid's selection for Ireland has been well documented. The 26-year-old sprinter was named in the squad despite being on bail after pleading not guilty to drugs and firearms charges in Bristol on 2 June.

The 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist will race in the 200m.

European Cross Country team silver medallist, Eilish Flanagan has been selected for the 3,000m steeplechase while Paul Pollock and Kevin Seaward will compete in the marathon around the streets of northern city Sapporo.

Belfast man Stephen Scullion will join Pollock and Seaward on the start line on 8 August having reversed his decision to withdraw from the Games.

Rowing

Rebecca Edwards, Rebecca Shorten, Hannah Scott and Philip Doyle

Northern Ireland will have four rowers at the Tokyo Games, representing both Great Britain and Ireland.

Rebecca Shorten and Rebecca Edwards will compete for Team GB in the women's four and women's eight respectively, while Hannah Scott will be part of GB's Women's quadruple sculls crew.

Philip Doyle, who has been working as a doctor throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, will compete with Ronan Byrne in the men's doubles and will be hoping to bring an Olympic medal back to Ireland.

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