We are delighted to catch up with former Old Lambrookian and Olympian. English born, but competing for Ireland due to her paternal grandparents, Desmond has been challenging on the World Cup circuit at tracks across Europe, North America and Asia for several years. She is a Winter Olympian, taking part in the women’s Luge single event. She was also given the massive honour of carrying the Irish flag as part of the opening ceremony in her most recent Olympics. The Luge competition involves individual or two-person teams, riding a flat sled feet- first down a specially designed ice track, that allows gravity to increase the sled’s speed.


Although it was not the competition for a medal, Elsa slid an impressive time of 1:02.254, which was just over half a second off her personal best first run, and as Ireland’s first ever Olympian in the luge, she really did make history. From Lambrook to the Olympics, we asked Elsa a few questions in advance of her visit:

When were you at Lambrook?

I joined in Year 7 in 2008 and left in 2010.

What did you go on to do after Lambrook, and what are you doing now?

After Lambrook I went to Stowe school. I then went on to study Medicine at Kings Collage London. I now work as a Doctor at Southend Hospital.

Which sports did you play at Lambrook? Did any help you with your journey to the Olympics?

I played Hockey and I was on the swim team. I think all the sports I have done in my life have helped me get to where I am. They give an understanding of what your body can do, how it moves, how to push yourself, and help you build general fitness, strength and flexibility.

What inspired you to be an Olympic athlete? Did you always dream of becoming an Olympian?

Going to the Olympics has been a dream for as long as I can remember, seeing athletes at the games, at the peak of sport, I always wanted to be one of them.

How did you learn about the Luge?

I first saw luge in the Olympics on TV in the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, and I thought it looked amazing!

How often do you train and what do you do to train for the luge?

In the off season (March to September) I do swimming and running for fitness. I do a lot of weights, and I practice the paddling element of my start on an athletics track using a wheeled sled. I normally train 6 days a week, 2 hours a day, and then do stretching and mobility on my rest day. I normally also go to training camps in summer in Romania or the Czech Republic, where I will go down concrete tracks on a sled with wheels and I also train on start ramps. Once the season starts I will leave the UK and go to slide overseas – I will normally slide 6-7 days a week for the 6 weeks of pre-season, using days when I am travelling between tracks as my rest days.

Which sports personality has inspired you the most and why?

Erin Hamlin, she was the First American and first non European woman ever to medal in Singles Luge at the Olympics.

How fast do you go on your luge runs?

The top speed for women in Luge is around 140km per hour!

What were you thinking about during your luge run at the Olympics?

When I was racing at the Olympics I was very focused, I was thinking only about how to drive the corner I was in, not thinking about the one before or the one ahead. I was also very relaxed because thinking too much or being nervous and tense is bad in Luge!

How did you feel at the end?

When I finished my race I was very happy because I knew I had made history. I was relieved also because some of the people I was racing against had crashed so I was relieved not to have crashed!

What was the highlight of your time in Beijing?

For me there were two highlights – the first was Carrying the Flag in the Opening Ceremony. The second was one of the best moments of my life – when I finished my first run, as I got a personal best time for that particular track with an excellent and clean run, and I had become an Olympian. The Irish team were at the finish cheering, it was amazing!

Do you have any advice for Lambrook pupils (or adults!) who are into their sport?

Take every opportunity to get involved in sport, all sport, even if it isn’t the one you want to end up in. Enjoy it and have fun. Sport is meant to be fun, there is time to be serious when you get older and start competing at a high level, but for now, just get involved and enjoy it. And for anyone that doesn’t want a career in sport, the same advice applies, you don’t have to be good at your hobbies, as long as you enjoy them. Even if you aren’t particularly good at a sport, as long as you enjoy it, don’t let anyone stop you!

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