TASS Olympian Farrell plots future

Farrell Treacy admits to a major upturn in form after he first received TASS support. We caught up with the British Olympic speed skater as he looked back on a fraught build up to the Beijing games and turned his attention to the future…on and off the ice.

TASS: Can you describe your build-up to the Beijing Winter Olympics?

Farrell Treacy: I had such a great block of training leading up to the Olympics. It was going incredibly well from December until the middle of January. On January 15 I received news that I’d tested positive for Covid. At that time we were told by British officials that the Chinese officials were being very strict with Covid protocol in relation to athletes getting into the country for the games. My conversations with BISA (British Ice Skating Association) suggested I was unlikely to get into Beijing. However, as the days went on, the protocols seemed to change and it was suddenly a scramble for me to get a negative PCR test. This whole period was extremely stressful and it caused a whirlwind of emotions leading up to my second Olympic games.

TASS: When you thought you wouldn’t make it what went through your mind?

FT: There were points when I was very worried. I thought the whole thing was over. Hearing that so many athletes at the Tokyo 2020 games had experienced the same struggles — some even missed out on their Olympic dream — made this very real for me. Four years is a very long time. I spent that time preparing myself to reach the Olympics in the best place possible. To then get told you’re not allowed to go is devastating.

TASS: How would you describe your mindset once you arrived on Chinese soil?

FT: When I arrived in China I was trying my hardest to get over jetlag and the other problems I had to face. I was also trying to get used to the ice which is a big factor within our sport. Limited ice time on the main rink that we would be racing on made it even harder with such a short time before my first race. I was trying to manage expectations due to the conditions and the limited training time I had before I even went to China. But I was also trying to get myself mentally up for it. Racing in front of millions and millions all over the world was definitely challenging.

TASS: How would you sum up your games?

FT: Definitely testing. But I’m very happy with my performance under the circumstances. Making a final was a goal of mine. This Olympics was a success, regardless of whether I felt I could’ve performed better.

TASS: Off the ice what was the overall experience like?

FT: It was very different from my last Olympics with the Covid restrictions really limiting what you could do and where you could go. However, the KFC and Pizza Hut was great!

TASS: Were capacity crowds and fans a big miss?

FT: Yes and I’ve missed a big crowd most of the season. We had a such a good crowd at the Hungary Debrecen World Cup. But other than that, we’ve had very small crowds or next to none. Having a great crowd can help me raise my game and lift the competition as a whole. I think it’s so important to make greater efforts to get back to capacity crowds and make these events more exciting for athletes and spectators.

TASS: What drives you to be the best that you can be?

FT: The thing that drives me is discovering my potential and finding out just how far I can push myself. Finding out how fast I can go or how fast I can do an overtake is a real driver.

TASS: What’s the best and worst of life as a British speed skater?

FT: As a British skater the worst aspects have been the little amount of funding and support we’ve received this Olympic cycle. UK Sport’s decision to fund just one athlete for the whole four-year cycle means it’s been incredibly hard for the sport in general. The best aspect would be the freedom to be able to train where I choose and be in control of my training program to a large extent. That’s not something that’s afforded to other skaters from other countries. For me, the biggest challenge has been injuries. The last four years has been littered with injuries. Recovering from those injuries was the toughest challenge of them all.

TASS: You’re supported by TASS — how important is that backing to you and why?

FT: TASS was the first contact I ever had with professional support staff and it was an eye opener at such a young age. My performances took a major upturn after I became a TASS athlete. It was incredibly helpful and still is.

TASS: How difficult is it for a young British speed skater to break through to elite international level?

FT: Compared to other nations we don’t get even close to the same ice time as a lot of competitors from other countries. With European competitors at very young ages having access to ice time every day, it’s hard for our young athletes to compete when they’re only on the ice once or twice a week. It can be challenging for some of our athletes to break through on the elite stage.

TASS: What’s the plan for the rest of 2022 and beyond?

FT: The first stage is a bit of rest and recuperation. I need to re-evaluate the last four years and make some big decisions about the next year to four years of my athletic career. I’ll also be rejoining my peers back in the UK to finish off my degree at De Montfort University.

Listing photo credit: Reuters, John Sibley