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Irish Prepare to Take On Europe
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Although Irish gymnasts and coaches are celebrating St. Patricks' Day, they are working hard to prepare for the upcoming European Championships.
Luke Carson, Mathew Cosgrave and Wayne Healy at the 2007 World Championships

Five Irish gymnasts are scheduled to compete at the European Championships for women, April 3-6 in Clermont, Ferrand, France. They include seniors Sarah Wedel, Aimee O'Driscoll, Emma Gorman and Zoe Johnston; and junior Rebecca Wallace.

Wedel was one of three Irish women who competed at last year's Europeans in Amsterdam. She performed on three events, and teammate Jean Masterson performed on two events. Grainne Johnston, Ireland's sole all-arounder, finished 64th. Last fall, Johnston placed 12th all-around at the Northern European Championships.

Representing Northern Ireland, Gorman placed fifth all-around at last month's Celtic Cup — a competition among gymnasts from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, held in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. In the team standings, Northern Ireland placed third.

Historically, Holly Murdock and Katie Slader have been the most successful Irish gymnasts. Murdock, who hails from Northern Ireland, represented Great Britain at the 2001 Worlds in Ghent, where she placed 14th all-around. That rank was the best in British history until Beth Tweddle finished fourth at the 2005 Worlds.

Slader, also from Northern Ireland, won the all-around title at the 2004 Northern European Championships.

Ireland's male gymnasts are preparing for the men's Europeans, May 8-11 in Lausanne, Switzerland. Scheduled to compete in Lausanne are senior Luke Carson; and juniors Geoff Rellis, Rory Caffrey, Christopher O'Connor and Rohan Sebastian. (According to a spokesperson for Irish Gymnastics, Cosgrave will not be competing at Europeans because they conflict with the timing of his university exams.)

Healy was the only Irishman to compete at last year's Europeans, where he performed on four events.

Last fall, Cosgrave finished eighth all-around at the Northern European Championships.

Sebastian, a dual U.S.-Irish citizen, is coached by two-time world champion Ivan Ivankov at the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy in Norman, Okla. Sebastian is among several promising Irish juniors. At the Celtic Cup, O'Connor finished fourth all-around, and the Irish team won the bronze medal. Daniel Fox earned the Irishmen's first individual medal in Celtic Cup history, when he placed second all-around in the Under-13 age group.

IG Magazine Related Features
"International Gymnast" - Sebastian profile (April 2008)
"Rising Irishman" - Cosgrave profile (December 2007)
"Pride of the Irish" - Slader profile (March 2005)
"Pressing Her Luck" - Murdock profile (August/September 2001)

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