Short track speed skater and current TASS athlete Niall Treacy doesn’t have to look far for a sporting role model with big brother Farrell to look up to. Making his Winter Olympics debut in South Korea, SportsAid and TASS alumnus Farrell is one of the five-strong short track squad representing Team GB at PyeongChang 2018.
“In three years’ time we’ll be racing each other in the British Championships,” Niall notes, “Who’s the best skater? Well that’s Farrell. But I’ll hopefully beat him one day.” The 17-year-old student from Henley-in-Arden is in fact the youngest of three brothers, including middle sibling Ethan, all of whom are performance speed skaters.
A new recruit to TASS support, Niall, who has received SportsAid awards for the last four years, is now on the performance pathway Farrell followed not so long ago, having been helped by the Scheme for two years from 2010. Farrell was also a SportsAid beneficiary during this period.
Farrell’s Olympic campaign got off to a disappointing start on Saturday as he crashed out in the heat of the 1,500m event. Luckily the 22-year-old will have the chance to race again tomorrow (13 February) in the 1,000m distance.
“It’s all pretty nerve wracking – though probably more for him than it is for us at home!” Niall admits. “More than anything I’m just really proud of him. He’s actually there and even though I’m away in Holland competing, I’ll be watching him on the telly.”
Set to follow in the footsteps of his siblings, the rising star is already competing at a junior international level, having qualified for Junior World Championships in Poland this March.
“I’ll be skating in all three events – 500m, 1,000m and 1,500m – at the Junior Worlds,” Niall explained. “The 1,000m is my favourite, but I’ll be focussing on the experience rather than the results; getting used to competing at this level and dealing with the pressure it brings.
“Last year was a great year for me – I got onto the GB Short Track Academy which was really motivating to see my hard work being recognised. It’s been beneficial being in that environment where all the coaches have been short track skaters themselves. Another highlight was being selected as the Team GB flag bearer for the Euro Youth Olympic Festival in Turkey. That was a cool experience.”
With ice training three times a week, including a session at the National Centre in Nottingham, plus additional strength and conditioning and skate-specific imitation work off-ice, Niall is already an expert at juggling the demands of sport and education.
“I chose my A-levels - maths, economics and geography – because they’re subjects I enjoy doing and I like being open to opportunities,” he said. “Sometimes skating competitions clash with school but I do try and focus on studying during term time.”
Fortunately, the young skater has been able to take advantage of the extra dual career support available from his TASS Delivery Site, University of Birmingham, with former Paralympic alpine skier Anna Turney on hand as Niall’s dedicated Lifestyle practitioner.
“The one to one sessions with Anna have been pretty inspirational,” he admits. “The advice she’s given me has helped me find a balance between school and skating and the big thing I’ve learnt is how to find a routine so that one thing never takes over the other. It’s brilliant how Anna just understands winter sports too, like how expensive they are to compete in and ways to try and find funding.
“Being on TASS has been great so far as in my first competition I fell over and badly injured my back. I got some physio sessions sorted really quickly and then when it healed I moved onto S&C. My coach has also commented on ‘massive improvements’ to my movement.”
Niall is now looking ahead to a year of hard work – both revising for his mock A-levels and training with the GB Short Track Academy - ahead of a potential move to Nottingham once his schooling ends to train full time alongside his brothers.
“Whenever Farrell and Ethan come back from Nottingham, we always try and go to watch Blues together,” he revealed. “Following Birmingham City is a big thing for us. My ultimate goal is to one day represent Great Britain at the Olympics, like my brother. My other hero is Charles Hamelin, the Canadian short track skater. PyeongChang will be his fourth Games and he’s still out in front smashing it against the younger athletes.”
The need for speed clearly runs deep in the Treacy family, especially since Niall had never skated before trying his first short track session, tagging along with Farrell’s friend after missing his school bus. “I remember I got on the ice and I couldn’t even pick my feet up so just fell over instantly. Farrell came over to help me and the coach said ‘leave him, he’s got to get up in his own’.”
Just six short years since entering his first competitive event in Sweden, there’s no looking back for the youngest of the Treacy trio. “No two races are ever the same in short track. For me, it’s all about that excitement of never knowing what’s going to happen next.”