Speed Skating: O'Reilly confirms he will go to the Winter Olympics

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WILF O'REILLY, whose medal hopes at Albertville two years ago fell victim to the rough and tumble of short-track speed skating, yesterday confirmed that he will race in the Winter Olympics later this month.

He had considered pulling out of Britain's 36-strong team for the Games, which begin 12 February, after his girlfriend, Monique Velzeboer, who was the top Dutch speedskater, was left paralysed by a fall in practice six weeks ago. However, O'Reilly said he decided to go to the Games after winning two short-track races in Norway last weekend.

'It was last Sunday that I made the final decision,' O'Reilly said. 'I realised I was a lot closer to being back to 'Wilf O'Reilly - go out and kick arse'.' O'Reilly also revealed that he had contacted Peugeot to suggest they look into the possibility of introducing airbag technology to safeguard speedskaters from the sort of accident that has left Velzeboer unable to walk.

The circumstances of Ulrike Maier's death in Garmisch last weekend, when the Austrian skier fell heavily, suggest such technology could have wider application. O'Reilly said he had watched Maier's fatal accident on television. 'It brought home to me all the horrors of Monique's accident,' he said.

O'Reilly won two gold medals when short-track speed skating was a demonstration sport at the 1988 Calgary Olympics, but he returned home empty- handed from France two years ago when the sport was introduced as an official medal event for the first time.