Katie Taylor

Ireland’s history at the Olympics


Ireland’s athletic prowess hasn’t always converted to the Olympic stage, but the Emerald Isle has left impressions across several sports. Let’s highlight them on St. Patrick’s Day.

Ireland has won 31 medals, including nine golds, all in the Summer Olympics, according to sports-reference.com.

The best-known recent Olympians include Katie Taylor, who won women’s boxing gold in its debut in 2012.

Taylor was the grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day parade Sunday in Toronto, where she resides. She is 27 and planning to defend her title in Rio de Janeiro.

The most decorated Irish Olympian of all time is swimmer Michelle Smith, who won three gold medals and one bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, accounting for all of Ireland’s medals at those Games.

Smith came under a doping controversy cloud at and following her surprisingly successful Olympics. She was mentioned on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1997 and, in 1998, was banned four years for tampering with one of her urine samples. That ended her swimming career, and she went into a law profession.

“She had enough whiskey in her sample to be dead,” Australian Olympic swimming champion Susie O’Neill said in 2012.

Then there’s Cian O’Connor, who won gold in individual show jumping at the 2004 Olympics but was stripped of it after his horse tested positive.

Ireland could experience unprecedented success at the 2016 Olympics with the addition of golf. 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and two-time major champion Rory McIlroy are ranked in the top 15 in the world.

They are both from Northern Ireland, whose athletes can compete for either Ireland or Great Britain at the Olympics. McDowell is believed to be tied to representing Ireland at the Olympics because he played for Ireland at last year’s World Cup of golf.

McIlroy did not play in last year’s World Cup and hasn’t decided on which nation he will represent, should he qualify for 2016.

1987 Tour de France champion Stephen Roche competed in the Olympics once, finishing 45th in the road race at the 1980 Moscow Games.

In gymnastics, Kieran Behan became a story at the London 2012 Olympics, the 5-foot-4 tumbler who defied the doctors who said he would never walk again.

He made it to the Games overcoming a complication from surgery to remove a non-cancerous tumor in his leg when he was 10 that left him in a wheelchair. He also later suffered brain damage from a training accident as a boy. Then he tore his right ACL. Then his left.

Irish influences have been seen at the Olympics in other forms. In Sochi, U.S. figure skater Jason Brown gained fame in the lead up to the Olympics and during the Games with his eye-catching “Riverdance” free skate.

In the Paralympics, Irish visually impaired sprinter Jason Smyth is a four-time gold medalist over 2008 and 2012 and has trained with American record holder Tyson Gay.

California earthquake rattles Olympians

Watch NBC Sports’ Alpine skiing World Cup preview video

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NBC Sports will air coverage of 87 Alpine skiing races at 22 resorts across the globe this fall and winter, from October through March, in the final full season before the 2018 Olympics.

Highlights include fall and winter stops in the U.S. with races in Killington, Vt.; Beaver Creek, Colo.; Squaw Valley, Calif.; and the World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colo., in March.

Lindsey Vonn‘s highlighted World Cup stop will be downhill and super-G races in Lake Louise, Canada, the first weekend of December.

The world championships in February will be in St. Moritz, Switzerland, where Ted Ligety and Mikaela Shiffrin will look to defend titles.


Skier goes airborne in World Cup opener (video)

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Canadian skier Phil Brown was fortunate to walk away from an airborne crash at the World Cup season opener in Soelden, Austria, on Sunday.

Brown failed to finish his first run, losing contact with the snow early on and falling hard onto his side.

He tweeted a video of the crash, with slow-motion replays, with a soundtrack of Irish singer Enya‘s “Only Time.”

The World Cup season continues with men’s and women’s slaloms in Levi, Finland, in three weeks.

MORE: Ted Ligety recovers to finish fifth in first race in 9 months