IT’S West Cork that joined the dots between Rhode Island and the European Youth Olympic Festival in Italy for Irish-American skier Ethan Bouchard.
Ethan (17) flew the Irish flag at the winter youth Games in northern Italy last week, and it’s all thanks to his roots in Skibbereen and Bantry.
It’s a remarkable tale – both his great grandparents left West Cork, immigrated to the United States and settled in Rhode Island, where they met and married.
It’s through this connection that Ethan has qualified to represent Team Ireland.
First, the Skibbereen link that also connects Ethan to the Olympic medal factory that is Skibbereen Rowing Club. He is a relation to Orla and Ciarán Hayes, who were serial national championship winners with the greatest rowing club on this island. Their father is Patrick Hayes, and his grandfather is a brother to Ethan’s great grandfather.
‘My grandfather was born in Cullinagh, Skibbereen, in 1883, and the farm he lived on is still in the family,’ Brian Bouchard, Ethan’s father, explained to The Southern Star.
Their relationship to West Cork doesn't end there: Brian’s grandmother – Ethan’s great grandmother – is from Coomhola in Bantry.
‘My grandmother, Hanna Keohane, was born in 1896. She was the youngest of eight children and was born to tenant farmers in Coomhola,’ Brian revealed.
The Bouchards are proud of their West Cork connection and visited the area three years ago. They plan to explore West Cork even more on their next trip, and Ethan’s adventure at the European Youth Olympic Festival shortens the distance between his home, Narragansett in Rhode Island, and the land his great grandparents left.
Ethan is the latest Team Ireland skier with a link to West Cork through immigration. In 2020 Emma Austin, from New Hampshire, skied for Ireland at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne; her paternal grandfather was from Clonakilty, and his family moved across the Atlantic and settled in Boston. Last year UK-born Jack Gower represented Ireland at the Winter Olympics and his grandmother, while born in Dublin, grew up in Skibbereen. Their stories are still tied to West Cork like Ethan Bouchard’s.
‘It has been great to hear and learn more about my family history and my connections to Ireland,’ Ethan said, ahead of flying out to Tarvisio in north-eastern Italy where the Alpine Skiing competitions in the European Youth Olympic Festival are held. These Games are a multi-sport event aimed at athletes aged 14-18 years and run every two years.
Alpine skier Ethan competed in three events last week – the Slalom, Giant Slalom and Super-G events.