Meet the young Irish man aiming to put rollerblading and Ice Skating on the map

Meet the young Irish man aiming to put rollerblading and Ice Skating on the map

IRELAND'S first entry at the Winter Olympics came way back in 1992, this was Ireland's maiden winter entry, and it came 70 years after the first version of the winter games. 

A lot can be attributed to the lack of funding, infrastructure and temperatures as to why we don't have more Winter Olympians in our history. 

Since 1992 Ireland has appeared at just seven games, never sending more than six athletes and never winning a single medal. 

The likes of Canada and France are more acclimated for young hopeful Olympians, but one man aims to turn Ireland's poor image on the Winter Olympics stage into a more fruitful one. 

Meet Alexandre Beretta-O'Reilly, the sole flag bearer for the Irish at next month's all-terrain skate cross world championship. 

Alexandre Beretta-O'Reilly was born L'Isle d'Espagnac (in France) and grew up in Paris to a French mother and half French-half Irish father. 

Previewing 86601693_10215983245840566_4502539071096094720_n.jpg Alex at the ice cross world tour (mark roe)

Irish connection 

Beretta-O'Reilly's ancestors and paternal family hailed from Co. Cavan and as a child, the 27-year-old visited his grandmother's home county. The extreme skater was a regular visitor to Ireland until the onset of the pandemic.

"I used to visit my grandmother quite a lot, but unfortunately she's passed away, he said.

"I still have some aunts and cousins in Cavan and Monaghan. I like to go once a year, but with Covid it's complicated at the moment."

His attachment to Ireland was so strong that choosing between France and Ireland was an easy one when it came to representing a country in rollerblading and ice skating.

France, for obvious reasons, has better infrastructure when it comes to rollerblading, compared to Ireland, but its ice-skating lacks far behind other countries like Finland and Austria. 

The lack of infrastructure still didn’t push him away from his desire to represent his Irish roots either.

I asked the 27-year-old why he pledged allegiance to the tricolour.

He told me that France's level of competitors was a significant factor, but he informed me that even if it had a smaller pool like Ireland, he would have still come to the same decision.

"There's too many French riders, even if there were no French riders, I would still choose Ireland because I am really proud to be Irish honestly. It's a feeling I like, representing Ireland is a nice feeling for me.

"I hope one day to win a medal or bring back something for Ireland if that opportunity comes."

Previewing 36961105_10211999530770179_2646753809245667328_n.jpg Alex teaching kids how to paint in Cavan Credit (Alex)


Alexandre was encouraged by his mother to rollerblade on the streets of France from a very young age, despite being keen on tennis, table tennis and football.

The young man rollerbladed every day of his life until one day, he just stopped. 

"I was a sporty kid growing up. I played tennis and table tennis in competitions, and some football with friends as well. 

“When I was a kid, my mum used to teach me how to rollerblade in the street, just like another sport. I was rollerblading every day of my life, until one day, I just stopped." said the extreme sportsman.

Beretta-O'Reilly would return to the sport years later when he picked up his first pair of skates at high school.

It became a hobby for the young man and would later become his full-time passion when he stumbled upon a random skate cross event in Lyon.

He was amazed by how fantastic the event was that it even turned his head. He entered an event in Lyon in 2015 the following year without any training and hadn't looked back since. 

Alex told me about his early memories of both sports and how much he's grown.

"The first moment of my first ramp, I had no experience. The ramp was three metres high. I was scared and shaking but I had the whole Italian team behind me. They were shouting 'Go, Alex, go Alex'.

"On my third try, I succeeded. I always remember them saying well done when I finished and then saying, "now do the whole track, it was pretty funny."

Since then, he's risen to ninth in the 2018 WSX (World Skate Cross) Series world rankings, qualified for the WSX finals in Shanghai back in August 2021 and for the World Roller Games in Buenos Aires in July 2021.

Sandrine Bloch

Ice Skating

Alexandre also finished his first season (2019) ranked 310th in the world and finished his second season (2020) ranked 123rd.

"It was the same for ice skating. I registered for the international race with no experience, and it was downhill," he explains.

"I remember not knowing how to break in Austria and it was terrifying, but it is one I always remember. I was like, okay, let's go. I had to turn my brain off." 

credit Petra Mrovna

Alex on his street art. 

Alexandre treats rollerblading, and ice skating as a hobby, his day job is as a street artist. 

When not testing himself against the world's best, Beretta-O’Reilly likes to create street art and often takes inspiration from world-famous street artist Banksy and other famous artists.

"My goal one day is to paint a mural in every country and it's an excuse to travel." 

I asked him if he'd ever design art for his helmet in rollerblading and ice skating, he replied with a definite "yes".


Alex on competing at the Winter Olympics 

Ice skating and rollerblading aren't seen as an extreme sport, and the up and comers hope that they can get it certified by the 2026 Milan Winter Olympics when it comes around. 

"It depends really on me for that to happen. I need ice skating to be recognised as an Olympic one and I don't know if it will happen before 2030. If it is recognised I will hope to get it."

The Winter Olympics in Milan are approaching in four years time and I asked Alex about getting nervous coming up to the big event. He had a few tips and strategies for overcoming his nerves if it ever came to it. 

"I have some kind of mental preparation, so I have some exercise to get used to the race. It's just trying to be in the moment. " 

Without any help or funding, Alexandre is looking to become Ireland's next sporting hero, like Brian O'Driscoll, Shane Lowry and others.

They are different sports, but the goal is the same in reaching the summit of their professions.

Sport Ireland and The Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI) give little investment to Alexandre's sport, and the 27-year-old has asked people to help out in any way they can.

"I have no funding. I am looking for sponsors," he confirms.

"I want to train more and get access to infrastructures abroad. I don't have the money for it now but I would like help."

He added: "It costs 20k a year for training and equipment, not to mention the flights.

"Any support on social media, whoever can share links, I would be grateful. I had crowdfunding, and it's now closed at the moment, but I am still accepting donations, that would be a big help."

To learn more about Alexandre, or for sponsorship opportunities, you can follow him on his website, Facebook, or Instagram.