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An ex-Leinster rugby player, a snowboarder and a Corkman named ‘Bubba’: Meet Ireland’s Winter Olympic team

Today’s opening ceremony marks the start of the 2018 Winter Olympics and although Ireland isn’t known as an alpine sports stronghold we are still sending a five-strong team in pursuit of glory.

The games take place in PyeongChang in South Korea, with Irish athletes competing in snowboarding and various skiing disciplines. Whereas in the summer games, expectations are usually high that Ireland can return home with a few medals, just qualifying for the winter games is a great success for these five.

Here is the quintet who will fly the Irish flag in South Korea:

Seamus O’Connor (Snowboarding)

This will be O’Connor’s second Winter Olympics after competing as a 16-year-old in Sochi in 2014. O’Connor was born in California but qualifies for Ireland through his grandparents. The Utah-resident will compete in the Men’s Halfpipe event and previously finished 10th in the 2015 Slopestyle World Championship.

Patrick McMillan (Skiing)

McMillan has a strong sporting background, having represented Leinster at U19 in rugby, where he played with current Ireland stars Tadhg Furlong and Jack Conan. Born in Donegal, McMillan is now based in Austria and has competed for Ireland at the last two Alpine World Championships.

The 26-year-old will compete in the Alpine Ski (Slalom), the Super-G and the Downhill event.

Tess Arbez (Skiing)

Arbez was born in France but represents Ireland through her father, who is from Carlow. Like McMillan, the 20-year-old has previously competed in the Alpine World Championships and will enter the Slalom and the Giant Slalom in PyeongChang.

Thomas Westgard (Skiing)

The 22-year-old Westgard was born in Norway and unsurprisingly given his background, will compete in the Cross-Country Skiing, an event which Norway have traditionally excelled in. Westgard made his debut for Ireland at the 2016-17 Cross-Country World Cup, and qualifies for the Irish team through his mother.

Brendan ‘Bubba’ Newby (Skiing)

Newby was born in Cork, but moved to Utah with his American parents at an early age. The 21-year-old will compete in the Halfpipe event. Newby initially missed out on qualification after finishing outside the top-30, but a late injury saw ‘Bubba’ earn a late call up.