Oisín named Young Sportsperson of the Year

On top of the World, Oisin O’Callaghan centre on the winners’s podium in Leogang on Sunday.

Making it a hat trick for awards of Limerick at last Thursday evening’s virtual RTE Sports Awards was Ardpatrick’s Oisín O’Callaghan who was named Young Sportsperson of the Year for 2020.
The World Junior Downhill Mountain Bike champion had to see off some very exalted contenders for the prestigious accolade including Aaron Hill, the Cork teenager who stunned the snooker world with his victory over six times world champion, Ronnie O’Sullivan at the European Masters, Kildare boxer Katelyn Phelan who claimed victory over the undefeated German Jessica Schadko to win the WBC youth title, darts player Keane Barry from Meath who became a dual darts world champion after winning the BDO World Youth’s Championship to go with the Junior Darts Corporation world tile which he won earlier in the year and rising Mayo Gaelic football star Oisín Mullin who due to his consistent high performances in his debut year at senior level was named on the Sunday Game’s Team
On an October Sunday morning in Salzburg, Austria, the Scoil Pól student sped to downhill to glory as he claimed the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Championship junior title. In doing so he became the first ever Irish rider to claim a rainbow jersey in a downhill biking event.
The Championship and the coveted rainbow jersey is the Holy Grail and one of the most coveted in the sport and is something many racers spend their entire racing career trying to win without success and only the really elite riders in the sport succeed.
To succeed it meant a lot of sacrifices for Oisín and his family who last summer decided that in order to prepare properly for the races that they needed to go to Europe long term and train on bigger tracks and spend time getting everything dialled in. This was mainly due to Oisín having to compete with Europeans on Europe’s tracks so it meant a level playing field.
“All last winter and every winter, I spend six days a week in the gym that is building up strength. This summer I went away to Europe training on bigger tracks where they have bigger mountains. They can put in chair lifts and longer runs and it is better for training. I spent a couple of months out there, very day on my bike just getting quicker and quicker and it paid off,” Oisín told the Vale Star at a home coming event last December.
On the Sunday of the defining race it teeming rain and snowing at the starting gate where temperatures were down to one degree.
O’Callaghan was number 33, meaning 32 riders had to go after him on the challenging 2.8km track with a 2,100 feet drop with a time target of four minutes.
It was no place for the faint hearted, 2.8 km of fresh cut up ground and roots and across the Red Bull ravine which is 38 feet wide and 40 feet deep.
After navigating the ravine, it was the straight for home and Oisín finished in four minutes two seconds.
There was now a nail biting wait as one by one the other 32 riders, some of the most experienced and elite in the world came down came down the course trying to beat the Ardpatrick’ man’s time. Concerns were unfounded as no rider came within a couple of seconds of Oisín and in his first season in racing, he was crowned World champion.
It was a phenomenal achievement for the young Limerick man who became only the fifth rider ever to win the Junior Championship as a first year as he explained to RTE’s Darragh Moloney at the Awards presentation. “For the junior world category there are only three years and only five people ever in the world have win it as a first year junior and I am the fifth. To do that is something that is not seen very often and to make history in Ireland to be the first one to ever win a World Downhill Mountain Bike is incredible.
He explained to Moloney how he became involved in the sport “It all strated with seeing by dad going out Mountain Biking and living close to the Ballyhouras, it was natural to go up and have fun with my friends and it progressed from there.
“I always looked up to guy called Steve Peat who my dad sent an email to when I was really young for my birthday. He has been always someone I really looked up and since I won, I talk to him all the time.
On his hopes for 2021 “I would like to be Junior World champion again and having narrowly missed out on the overall title which is all the World Cups you gain points from each position and at the end of the season, all those points are added up and whoever has the most points wins.”