ON SUNDAY last Eoin Rheinisch departed for London. The Games of the XXX Olympiad are his third and most likely his last, writes Ruth Chambers.
The 32-year-old Leixlip man didn’t think he’d make it. Injuries and illness hit him hard in 2010 and 2011 but back in May, at the European Championships in Augsburg, Rheinisch booked his spot in London. At the semi final stage 98.38 seconds was enough to take one of the two spots remaining and now his focus is firmly on July 29 and the canoe slalom event at Lee Valley White Water Centre.
“2010 and ’11 were tough for me with illness, injuries and surgeries. They really were dark times for me and I started to wonder if I made the right decision to continue after Beijing. To qualify in May with only two spots left, and with the people going for it, was an incredible relief for me. The thoughts of not qualifying after three and half to four years would have been devastating,” admitted the amiable Rheinisch.
“We’re the same as boxing, we get two chances and for the World Championships in September I just didn’t have it physically. I missed six months of training after recovering from surgery and that was a big blow to me because I knew it was going to come down to the wire for me with 31 people going for two spots,” he added.
Rheinisch’s qualification for London 2012 is all the more remarkable after a shoulder injury and a subsequent operation put his sporting career on hold. He almost packed it in but what convinced him to give it one more go was the memories of what happened in Beijing four years ago.
Rheinisch very nearly brought an Olympic bronze medal back to Kildare when he held third position with just one competitor left. That competitor was Togo’s Benjamin Boukpeti and his dramatic run brought him bronze, and Togo’s first ever Olympic medal. It was heartbreaking stuff for the Leixlip man and he’s on a mission to make amends.
“I feel different now than I did about it. Going in to 2008 and these games I don’t actually know what I’m going to do afterwords. You only get a chance every four years and even then you have to qualify. It’s quite hard to make a path for yourself. After Beijing I didn’t know if I was going to continue or not and put quite a large part of my life in to it to go again. I had my doubts after Beijing but I’m glad I decided to keep going,” he admitted.
Rheinisch will compete at the Lee Valley White Water Centre, some 30 kilometres north of the Olympic Park and is already familiar what the course, which has been built from scratch especially for the Games.
“It’s unique for Olympic Games, the canoe slalom course is always the first one to be finished. The one in Beijing was the same. I actually raced on the London course over a year ago at a test event and the reason behind that is because there’s such a home advantage to the British athletes because they have access to the water. It’s not like the track or the pool, each course is unique and have their own characteristics. They opened it and for the first four or five months nobody else was allowed on only the British team but every host nation does that,” explained the Leixlip native.
“I’ve had quite a few training session on it and I will have a full two weeks on it leading up to the games so you get a reasonable amount of training on it. It’s a great course like all of the Olympic courses. As they years pass they put a bit more money in to it, pump more water down, there’s 13 tonnes a second being pumped and it’s so steep. It’s a big challenge and I like it. It’s not something I’d like to race on day in day out though,” added Eoin.
Rheinisch is one of six athletes from Kildare on the Ireland team this year. Celbridge man Mark Kenneally, Johnstown native Cian O’Connor, Camilla Speirs from Athy, Naas native Aoife Clark and Anna Merveldt the Canadian born dressage competitor that was reared in Naas will all endeavour to take medals home to the Shortgrass County.
Rheinisch, up to this point, has been concentrating on doing his own thing, but is now looking forward to getting side by side with his team mates in the Olympic village in the English capital.
“Until you get in to the Olympic village you won’t know what the mood among the team is like. Up until now people have been doing their own thing, attitudes up to now have been blinkered. I wouldn’t have an awful lot of contact with the track and field athletes but there are one or two that I would. I’m living in Celbridge and so is Mark Kenneally so I see him out running the roads and I meet him in the Institute of Sport but I wouldn’t be able to comment on the whole team,” remarked Rheinisch.
Last Thursday the Leixlip man completes his last really tough training session ahead of the Games. All eyes now turn to Sunday week. He’s back, he’s fit and he’s raring to go.