By CA Sarsfield
In 1912, two young Irish lads were getting ready to give their all for Ireland at the Olympic Games which were being held in Sweden. They were the Walker brothers, Michael and John.
Not only did these two brothers represent Ireland at the Olympics, they also put their lives on the line four years after the Olympics, when they once again took to their bikes, riding dispatch around Dublin during the Rising of 1916.
Michael and John had to overcome many obstacles in order to get ready for the games which were being held in Stockholm. Most Irish Olympians were either representatives of adopted homelands, like the USA or the Commonwealth dominions.
Since its foundation in 1906, the British Olympic Association only accepted membership or pro-British political views, and as a rule, the BOA did everything it could to prevent Irish people from representing ‘Ireland’ at any Olympic Games. They preferred instead that they would form part of a ‘Great Britain and Ireland’ team.
In 1911, the Irish Amateur Athletic Association sought separate representation at the Olympic Games, and in 1912, a very rare exception occurred, when the BOA allowed separate cycling teams from Ireland and Scotland take part in Stockholm. The reason for this was believed to be that cycling teams from these countries were unlikely threats to ‘Great Britain’ either in sporting or political terms.