Belfast Telegraph

It's not all downhill the older you get, as Team Ireland cross-country skier Dominic shows at age 45

By Joanne Sweeney

A skier from Northern Ireland has just competed in his first official international race - at the grand 'old' age of 45.

Dominic McAleenan, who's originally from Banbridge, Co Down, competed for Team Ireland against skiers who were 25 years younger in the FIS Nordic Ski World Championship in Falun in Sweden last week.

He finished in 120th place out of 130 competitors in his best ever sporting achievement, having only skied competitively since 2011.

It was a 1.4km cross-country sprint race and the youngest of the competitors was only 16.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I was determined not to be last so I was delighted that there were eight people behind me in time - one didn't take part and the other failed to complete it. But I was totally exhausted afterwards as it really took it out of me.

"It's been one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life.

"The closest competitor in age to me was seven years younger, so age was not the issue, it was fitness.

"At one point I was going up the first hill and was faced with another competitor still on the hill, which made things more difficult for me as I had to come around him.

"Also it was plus seven degrees, which actually meant it was nearly too warm for this kind of race."

He added: "I finished the race in 4.54 minutes, 1.54 minutes behind the winner, and I was really happy with that performance.

"My team-mate Jan Rossiter, living in Canada, finished in 101st place in a time of 4.02, and he represented Ireland at the Olympics in Sochi."

However, while most of the other younger skiers welcomed him into the competition, one of them mistook him for one of the waxers, the people who prepare the competitors' skis.

Dominic revealed that he had been training intensively in the gym and on roller skis for the last few years, with performances steadily improving.

He now lives in Stockholm in Sweden with his wife Pia and daughters Linnea (11) and Sofia (9), having lived in Norway since leaving university.

He was introduced to skiing as a schoolboy when he was one of two Catholic students selected to go to Norway on a Peace People-organised trip during the 1980s.

He became friends with a Norwegian family and maintained his skiing ever since.

In 2011 he returned to cross-country skiing when he took part in the famous Vasaloppet Race in Sweden.

"This is a race that attracts over 50,000 skiers each year," explained Dominic.

"And every time I entered it, I kept getting placed higher, which helped me qualify for Team Ireland.

"I did compete in a race over 20 years ago but with raising a family and building a career, I didn't have enough time on the slopes to really pursue it to the level that it requires."

Now Dominic is aiming to compete for Ireland in the World Championships in Finland in 2017 and would encourage other older skiers to give competitive skiing a go and to contact him via Facebook.

Background

Dominic McAleenan (45) is a cross-country skier originally from Banbridge, Co Down, who now lives with his wife Pia and two daughters Linnea and Sofia in Stockholm, Sweden.

He took up competitive skiing in 2011 when he was one of over 50,000 who took part in the Vasaloppet Race in Sweden, which helped him qualify for Team Ireland.

On March 4 he will compete once more in the race for the fourth year as he starts in the fourth of the 10 start groups, and hopes to compete in the World Championships in 2017.

Belfast Telegraph

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