I’m really stoked to be from Cork, says ski Olympian

Cork-born Brendan Newby is taking part in the Winter Olympics this month, writes AISLING MEATH. She caught up with the Team Ireland flagbearer who lived in Ballincollig as a young child
I’m really stoked to be from Cork, says ski Olympian

Olympic Skier Brendan Newby who is from Cork.

IRELAND will be represented in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Bejiing by a team of six spectacular athletes, one of whom was born right in the heart of the ‘rebel county’ in Cork city.

Bearing the flag for Team Ireland at the opening ceremony, along with Luge competitor Elsa Desmond, who also has Cork connections - Brendan Newby, whose nickname is ‘Bubba’ will represent the country in Freestyle Skiing.

This will be the second Olympic outing for the 25-year-old, who previously competed in PyeongChang in 2018.

Participating in the Olympics is a dream fulfilled for Brendan, since he first watched the Games in Salt Lake city as a child.

He currently lives in Orem, Utah, where he is studying for a degree in Outdoor Recreation Management at Utah Valley University, but his family liv

Brendan Newby of Team Ireland taking part in the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain on January 06, 2022. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Brendan Newby of Team Ireland taking part in the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain on January 06, 2022. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

ed for a time in Cork city, where his father Van worked as a lecturer in Economics at UCC.

While they were residing in Ballincollig, Van and his wife Bethanie welcomed their baby boy Brendan into the world, and they relocated back to the States when the future Olympian was just two-year- old. His older brothers took to calling him ‘Bubba’ and the name stuck.

Brendan, however, is delighted to call himself a Corkman.

“It would be really cool if some of our neighbours who remember us are still kicking around in Ballincollig. I haven’t had a chance to come back to Cork unfortunately, but I really want to get back there with my family and see the spots where we used to hang out.

“I have been back to Ireland a few times, but only got as far as Dublin, so I am really bummed that I didn’t get a chance to return to Cork yet. The pandemic didn’t help, and I would love to return to my birthplace and visit all the sights.”

One of the sights of particular interest to Brendan is the ‘Kindred Spirits’ sculpture by Alex Pentek in Midleton, commemorating the generous donation of $170 from the Choctaw nation, who, although a dispossessed people themselves, reached into their hearts and their pockets and extended a helping hand to the Irish during the Famine.

And there is one special person in his life that Brendan wants to bring along.

“My coach Ian Burson is from the Choctaw nation, and when he told me the story of how his people helped the Irish it blew me away. Ian is an amazing coach and a really great guy. He would be stoked if we could go and see ‘Kindred Spirits’ together. It’s super cool how we made that link between Cork and the Choctaw connecting once again.

Skier Brendan Newby.
Skier Brendan Newby.

“Ian has been my coach now for around two and half years. He’s an insanely good skier himself. We are in the Park City Ski and Snowboard team based out of Utah, and together with our other team-mate Cameron Broderick, we have the best of times together, and it’s even better if we are joined by the amazing snowboarder Seamus O’Connor.

“We get up to all sorts of shenanigans - playing Nintendo, or going out exploring together. We like to keep the vibes high and have fun times. If you have a good time off the hill, it makes it easier to have fun on the hill as well.

“We were in Austria the day before lockdown happened, and when we went out for the night everyone was behaving like it was their last night on the planet, and we really enjoyed the crazy fun atmosphere,” he recalled.

In order to train on the ‘pipe’, Brendan and Ian have to travel a lot as there are very few pipes in the world.

“ Park city, Utah have only just finished their pipe,” explained Brendan, “So we have to travel a lot just to train. Sometimes there is only one pipe open at any given time in the world, for example that time we were in Austria before lockdown, it was the only one open then.

“When you go to training camp, the main thing is not to get hurt, and to learn the moves. Sometimes you learn a trick and you get to practice it five times, and then it could be three weeks or a month before you get a chance to practice it again.

Brendan Newby of Ireland competing during the Freestyle Skiing Men's Ski Halfpipe Qualification on day eleven of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Brendan Newby of Ireland competing during the Freestyle Skiing Men's Ski Halfpipe Qualification on day eleven of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“The best weather conditions in which to train are when it’s sunny with no wind. The cross wind can be a killer in the pipe, it’s very dangerous. You jump off one wall and it pushes you into the middle of the pipe. Pipes are made of ice so if you fall on ice, it hurts like hell.

“We were actually in Oregon this summer when they were having their crazy heatwave. It was 95 degrees in the snow, so I was actually skiing in a tee shirt and still sweating.

“That was the softest pipe I’ve ever been in, and it would not have hurt to take a fall in conditions like those!

“Right now in China, the weather is absolutely Baltic, its freezing, and I’m wearing five layers as well as my jacket. It’s helpful when there is consistency in the ice, if it stays hard all day at least you know what to expect.”

The vertiginous manoeuvres which Brendan undertakes while skiing are a sight to behold. For example the ‘Double Flare’ – a side flip where his head goes under his body twice.

“ A lot of the time it just feels so cool sliding on ice, sometimes it feels like flying. I get into the ‘flow state’ where nothing else matters. You have to be a hundred per cent present with what’s going on when you are in the pipe.

“When I am doing tricks on the ice, I cannot be thinking ‘Oh crap, I’ve left the oven on’- you have to be completely in the moment.

“I’m really stoked to be from Cork as well because one of the tricks I do is called a ‘Cork’, which is short for a ‘Corkscrew’ so it just writes itself,” he laughs.

A ‘Cork Seven’ is two spins with a ‘Cork’ so upside down, and also a right ‘Cork Nine’ is two and half spins forward with a flip.”

He loves his bacon for breakfast and an egg sandwich to keep him fuelled, and he always has his orange juice in stock.

“I love to play video games in the morning and blast some music in my ears to get all fired up,” he said.

His dad Van taught him how to ski when he was just four years old.

“I never remember not being able to ski, all my family skied, we were weekend warrior types. When I was 12, my Mom used to see me doing these flips on the trampoline so she decided that I should get a trainer and learn how to do them safely.

“For the last three years, I’ve also been getting into dirt biking a lot, and it’s an incredible workout for your body. You can reach places that you would never be able to just by hiking. There’s a lot of wilderness to explore in Utah.”

Brendan Newby with his dog Koda.
Brendan Newby with his dog Koda.

Brendan also enjoys paddle boarding, and he often brings his faithful companion Koda along with him when he’s off on his adventures.

“She’s the best dog ever,” he said. 

“She’s nine years old now and her hair is getting a bit white, but she’s such a great dog. She comes everywhere with me and I really miss her when I’m travelling.

“For any young Irish people who want to get into this sport, I’d advise them just show up and try. I know that there is no snow in Ireland, but there is the great Ski Club of Ireland in Kilternan where there is a dry slope where you can start.

“Find out what you are passionate about and go for it – I did - and I am pretty thrilled to be here representing Ireland in the Olympics. I hope that the Games will help to lift everyone up after the tough times we have all gone through.

“Bearing the flag for Ireland at the opening ceremony is probably the biggest honour of my life,” said the Corkman - and indeed the whole nation, especially those in the Rebel County, will be keeping a close eye on all his ‘Cork Tricks’!

Brendan will compete for Ireland In the Halfpipe Qualifying Event on February 17.

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