Racing on ice at speeds of above 30mph is a daunting task for most. But for Niall Treacy, he’s taken it in his stride – all the way to next month’s Winter Olympics in Beijing.
The short track speed skater has been based at Nottingham’s National Ice Centre for the past four years, all with the aim of racing at the “pinnacle” of his sport.
Speed skating runs in the family for Niall, the youngest of four brothers, with two of them having also competed for Great Britain.
Niall, who will compete in the 1000m short track event in Beijing, started skating aged eight before moving to Nottingham in 2018 – the same year that his brother, Farrell, was competing in the PyeongChang Games.
His older brother will be on the plane to China in the coming week, and the Warwickshire-born athlete admits: “When Farrell joined the national team, it showed me and Ethan that we could get there too.
“When Farrell made it to the Olympics, I was thinking there’s no reason why I can’t too.”
The Treacy family is a competitive one, even when it comes to a friendly game of Monopoly. But for Niall, this upbringing has only helped his career.
A fourth-placed finish at a World Cup event in Hungary last November was a big confidence boost for the 21-year-old who all but confirmed his spot for the Games in the process.
“You had to get a top-20 finish to qualify for Games so once I’d done that I wanted to see how far I could go,” he said.
“There were some crashes so some of the races went my way and I found myself in an A final.
“I couldn’t believe my first A final was an Olympic qualifying event, it made me feel like I could race with these guys.”
This has never been in doubt for his coach, Richard Shoebridge, who said: “I’ve been with Niall for five years now and his levels of professional and commitment to the dream have been unmatched by almost anyone I’ve seen.
“On his final day of training before flying out to Beijing he went and skated the fastest 11-lap time that anyone ever has in Nottingham.
“He’s one of those guys where if you say ‘jump’, he says ‘how high?’ He never settles for mediocrity.”
Niall admits it was a surreal experience receiving the letter from Team GB’s chef de mission confirming his place.
Yet it possibly wasn’t the call letting him know he’s in the squad that the 21-year-old was most excited for.
“Getting my hands on the Team GB kit is something I’ve always dreamed about,” he said.
Niall, who also trains at the University of Nottingham’s High Performance Zone, added: “I’ve got three full bags and backpacks of stuff. You feel more part of the team now and there’s a lot of pride in wearing the Team GB lion on my chest.”
It’s not just him that feels pride when he dons the Team GB kit though.
For Niall’s parents, it was nerve-wracking enough having to watch one son compete in the Games, when Farrell took to the ice four years ago, but this time round its double the stress.
“My mum loves watching the sport but hates watching when we do it, in case we fall over or the result doesn’t go our way – she’ll still watch it but maybe with her hands over her face,” explained Niall, who has trained twice a day for six days a week in preparation for Beijing.
It’s understandable that his parents would be nervous when short track speed skaters race using blades that are only a millimetre thick, with between four and eight racers jostling for position on the rink. Crashes are highly likely.
Nevertheless, as one of just 50 British athletes making the trip to the Far East, Niall is looking forward to soaking up the Olympic experience for the first time.
The Winter Olympics begins on Friday 4 February with Niall commencing his campaign, to be Great Britain’s first short track speed skating medallist since 1994, the following day.