Nenagh's Aisling Keller: on her way to Olympics
Nenagh sailor Aisling Keller has qualified for next year's Olympic Games in Japan following the final two races at the Laser Radial World Championship this Wednesday morning in Sakaiminato, Japan.
The berth was secured by Lough Derg Yacht Club’s Aisling who had her best day in the Gold fleet final series to finish 46th overall.
“This is a weight off my shoulders for sure. It’s probably the hardest regatta I’ve ever sailed,” Aisling said. “To come in off the water and know that it’s done and dusted is just amazing. I’m so happy.”
Aisling is daughter of Pat and Josephine Keller and a sister of former Ireland national champion Eoin.
She came up through the school sailing programme operated out of Lough Derg Yacht Club and instigated by former Carrig National School principal Liam Maloney.
LDYC commodore Tadgh Murphy said that Aisling was always a dedicated sailor and it was a dream come true for her.
"The Kellers are family members. This is great for the club," he said.
Mr Murphy said it was fantastic that an inland club could produce someone who was heading to the Olympics.
He pointed out that Aisling was following in the wake of former Olympians and club members Alf Delaney, London 1948, and Cathy McAleavey, Seoul 1988, mother of Olympic silver medalist Annalise Murphy. Annalise is an honorary member of the club.
Nenagh-born Bob Tisdall, who was also a member of Lough Derg Yacht Club, won a gold medal in the 400 metre hurdles at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles.
The club will host a fundraiser for Aisling's Olympic bid on Tuesday, August 13, ,at 8pm when Tipperary man Johnny Looby will interview former rugby players Paul O'Connell and Brent Pope in the clubhouse in Dromineer.
Lough Derg Yacht Club will host the Connacht Laser championships this weekend and Mr Murphy said that if Aisling had not been in Japan she would have been sailing on Lough Derg.
Howth Yacht Club’s Aoife Hopkins placed 48th and both Irish sailors were inside the qualification criteria with Aisling taking the seventh of 10 nation places decided at the championship. Ms Hopkins would otherwise have been in the ninth nation place.
“It’s been a really long road to this moment. We’ve been working for a year towards this event particularly and even longer towards Olympic qualification,” said Ms Hopkins. “It’s really nice to come away with the outcome we wanted.”
“Qualification was something that had to happen so that ended up being the focus here at the end of the regatta,” said Rory Fitzpatrick, Irish Sailing’s head coach. “Next we go to the Olympic venue at Enoshima. Now that we know we’re going to be at the Games we’ve got to make the most of it.”
“It is fantastic to know we will be on the Olympic start line. The next phase is Olympic preparation and the bar gets set even higher for that. There are bigger performances to come from these two athletes” said James O’Callaghan, Irish Sailing’s performance director. “The coming 12 months are critical to unlock potential but with support from Sport Ireland and the Irish Sailing Foundation, we are determined to give them the best chance for success.”