The OFI has launched an Irish Winter Sports Strategy alongside National Federations ©OFI

The Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI), in collaboration with the National Federations, has launched a plan aiming to improve the winter sports environment in the country.

The main goal of the Irish Winter Sports Strategy is to amplify the voice of winter sports in Ireland as well as to provide equal support to high-performance winter athletes. 

Facility development, athlete carding, participation and talent development, then visibility and governance are the four main pillars comprising the plan. 

During the official launch, OFI President Sarah Keane called for equality across the sector, emphasising that Winter Olympic athletes should have access to support "in the same way as other high-performance athletes do". 

"We need to understand that winter sports athletes and federations need our support," Keane said. 

"Sustainable success doesn't happen by chance, it doesn't happen without support. 

"We have high performing athletes across our sports, if we want to bring sport to the next level, if we want more than six athletes competing at the Olympic Games, and if we want medals, we need to support our sports. 

"We were very grateful for Minister Chambers on behalf of the Government and representatives of the Federation of Irish Sport and Sport Ireland to meet with us and the winter federations and athletes to discuss this strategy and how we can bring it forward."

Of particular focus is the International Carding Scheme run by Sport Ireland.

The strategy calls for state support through the funding of winter athletes via this funding stream.

State support would significantly assist winter athletes as the majority of their international opposition have some of their costs funded by the state, the OFI argues.

"The winter sports federations have put in a significant amount of work to establish a clear framework for improvement and success over the next four year period," added Peter Sherrard, chief executive of the OFI.

"The OFI is committed to supporting the journey with €50,000 (£41,000/$54,000) funding to help the federations fulfil the actions that it contains. 

"Ahead of us, we have a very exciting project which has the potential to transform participation opportunities, while ensuring that the winter sports federations, by working together, are better recognised and supported, along with their athletes who represent us on the Winter Olympic stage."

Sports Minister Jack Chambers met winter athletes and officials at a launch event for the Irish Winter Sports Strategy to discuss possible next steps. 

Irish athletes have competed at each of the last seven Winter Olympic Gams but are yet to win a medal.

Clifton Wrottesley came closest, finishing fourth in the men's skeleton at Salt Lake City 2022.