Beijing Olympics

Ramona Snowboarder Soaring Toward Return Trip to Winter Olympics

Seamus O'Connor grew up in Ramona but hopes to compete for Ireland, the home of his paternal grandparents, for a third straight winter game

NBC Universal, Inc.

At just 24 years old, Seamus O'Connor has the world in front of him. But as a snowboarding veteran who turned pro at 13 and competed in two Olympics, he has already traveled much of it, too.

"This sport is such a young person's sport," O'Connor told NBC 7. "My knees are creaking already and I've had injuries before and it's got me feeling like I'm kind of getting on. But I try to remind myself I'm not even 25 yet and take a step back and remind myself I can still hang out with these guys."

O'Connor grew up in Ramona and started skiing as a toddler with his father during weekend trips to Big Bear. By age 3, he was on a snowboard displaying rare balance and courage to take on high-flying tricks.

His dream of competing in the Winter Olympics came true in 2014 when he competed in Sochi, Russia for Ireland, the home of his paternal grandparents. He was just 16 years old and qualified in two separate events.

Four years later, he qualified again in the halfpipe, his specialty, for the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea and was selected as the Irish flag bearer for the opening ceremony.

At the time, he figured it would be his last Olympics and he would move on to school and "life" after the games, with plans to leave snowboarding behind.

"I was definitely assuming it would be my last go of it and it was time to get real, so to speak, and join the rest of world," O'Connor said.

But after he got home and was snowboarding just for fun, he realized it wasn't quite time to close the door on his passion and a pretty cool day job.

"It's an interesting one for sure, a lot of travel, chasing snow. I'm a full time student now, as well, so those two worlds, having to mix them can be a bit complicated at times," he said.

While his comeback now hinges on rehabbing a recent knee injury, O'Connor doesn't have to look too far back to remember what it's like to overcome the odds.

He overcame a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus in the run up to the last Winter Olympics in South Korea. The challenges heading into his final games this time, however, have been compounded by a worldwide pandemic.

"It has definitely added another dimension to it," O'Connor said. "Reservations on the mountain, can't go to certain countries like New Zealand or Australia."

You could say O'Connor's snowboarding career has been a journey full of twists and turns -- just like the sport he loves.

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