Ireland is my favourite spot in the world. Having been there eight times and explored the four corners of the Emerald Island it was astonishing to see seven athletes from Ireland march in the opening ceremonies a week ago.
The Winter Olympics and Ireland are about as incongruous as the Toronto Maple Leafs and a Stanley Cup championship in the past 35 years. Was there some sort of secret Irish winter wonderland yet to be discovered?
Well, upon further inspection it turns out that of the seven Ireland athletes, five compete in bobsleigh. That is not surprising since athletes from Bermuda, Jamaica and Argentina participate in bobsleigh. Still, the other two athletes are alpine skiers.
How does one grow up in Ireland and finish 53rd overall in the men's downhill? That's what happened last Sunday to Irishman Paul Patrick Schwarzacher-Joyce. Even though he finished more than 15 seconds behind eventual winner Fritz Strobl, Schwarzacher-Joyce received the loudest cheer of the day when he completed his run at Snowbasin.
The 29-year-old fell halfway down the two-mile course, but somehow got back on his skis, stayed inside the gates on the course and sped through the finish line to a hero's welcome.
"I was just happy that I had made it down in one piece," he said. "It was quite bumpy and I must have caught an inside edge. I fell sideways, but luckily didn't miss a gate.
"I couldn't give up in a race like this - there was no way I was going to stop.
"And it was worth it for that steep finish into that superb atmosphere."
Born in London, his mom is from Dublin but his dad is Austrian. He trains and works during the winter in St Anton.
More interesting is Schwarzacher-Joyce's affiliation with the Ski Club of Ireland. It was founded in 1963 and a few years later ran its first slope in Knockrabo in Mount Anville, Goatstown, south Co. Dublin. In the mid 1970's the Club moved from the suburbs to its current location in Kilternan, about 45 minutes south of Dublin. Dublin and the area rarely get snow.
But the Ski Club, upgraded in 1992, consists of what is called dry slopes. A misting lubrication system allows year round skiing and snowboarding on a fast, flowing surface. The skiing surface consists of upturned plastic brushing, called Dendix, the middle and main slopes are lubricated by a water system, which operates intermittently and reduces the friction factor.
The main slope is 180 metres long. Even though Schwarzacher's trains in continental Europe, he is proud of his affiliation to the Ski Club of Ireland and undeniably loyal to his Gaelic roots.
"I am very proud to represent Ireland at a competition like this," he said. "After all, there are so many Americans here with Irish connections.
"Back in Ireland, my sister had got some friends together to watch the race in a pub called The Roost.
"And I may allow myself a Guinness or two tonight as well."
Sounds like a grand idea.