Enviromental Chamber

Sport Ireland Institute unveils new environmental chamber

02 May 2024
Stephen Walsh

Sport Ireland has officially unveiled its new environmental chamber, which simulates various environmental conditions, such as altitude, temperature and humidity to help our athletes prepare for competition in any part of the world. 

The chamber, in the Sport Ireland Institute, can simulate altitudes of up to 5,000 metres, temperatures of between –20 and 50 degrees Celsius, and humidity of 20% to 90% - and our Paris-bound Olympians and Paralympians are already using it to get ready for this summer’s Games.  

Officially opening the chamber, Minister of State for Sport, Physical Education and the Gaeltacht Thomas Byrne said: “As we await the Paris Games with great excitement, I am delighted to see this new resource being made available to Irish athletes at the Sport Ireland Institute. The new environmental chamber will allow our athletes to train at conditions specific to their needs and aims to give them the best possible chance of performing to the standards we know they can reach into the future.” 

Sport Ireland CEO Dr Úna May said: “Our athletes are frequently called upon to compete in extreme environmental conditions. This chamber represents Sport Ireland’s continuing commitment to ensuring Irish sportspeople are given the best chance of succeeding.” 

The main focus of work in the chamber between now and Paris will be providing a training space at the predicted thermal conditions where athletes, coaches and support staff can train and acclimate to the conditions that await them in the French capital.  

Recent summer conditions in Europe indicate a strong likelihood of heatwave temperatures facing the athletes during the Games, and the Physiology Team at the Sport Ireland Institute are focused on fully preparing all athletes to cope in such conditions. 

Boxer Grainne Walsh, who is going to Thailand to compete in the final qualifier for Paris 2024 in two weeks’ time, said: “Having the environmental chamber in the Institute for us is unreal. We are basically able to bring the heat and humidity of Bangkok to the Institute. When we arrive in Thailand, it’s not going to be something we haven’t prepared for, because we’re training in 60% humidity and 35 degrees Celsius.  

“I am so thankful that the Sport Ireland Institute aren’t sparing any cost in terms of helping us to achieve our potential. I feel very lucky to be a part of this and to have all these facilities. When you take a step back and see how blessed you are it is something else.” 

Dr Ciara Sinnott-O'Connor, Head of Physiology at Sport Ireland Institute, said: “The chamber offers us a huge range of flexible options to support athletes in terms of acclimation for temperature, humidity and altitude.   

“There is a key benefit in linking in with rehab and physio programmes. We use heat training sessions to induce an additional physiological stress to assist athletes returning to training from injury or those athletes requiring an increase in physiological stress without an increase in overall training load.” 

The chamber - located on the Sport Ireland Campus in Blanchardstown, Dublin - also allows Sport Ireland Institute to introduce athletes to altitude in advance of travel to camps and reduces the risk of altitude illness. Currently our Rugby Sevens team is putting it to effective use ahead of their trip to a tournament in Singapore. 

Liam Harbison, Director of Sport Ireland Institute, said: “Both altitude and warm weather training require high logistical, time and attention cost for not only the coaches and athletes but also the sport science and medical staff involved supporting athletes to ensure that they benefit from the performance gains without compromising their health. The investment in and provision of this chamber is a hugely significant performance support offering we have now added to the comprehensive suite of performance services to Ireland’s best athletes.” 

Also launched on the day was Sport Ireland Institute’s Statement of Intent 2024 – 2032. This document aims to build on 16 years of growth and success for the Sport Ireland Institute and maps priorities in performance support delivery to Irish High Performance Sport over the coming years, focused on the Olympic and Paralympic Games of Los Angeles 2028 and Brisbane 2032.  

John Foley, Chairperson of Sport Ireland, said: “Since its inception the Sport Ireland Institute has grown to become the centre for high-performance sports, in 2017 we supported 296 athletes – in 2023 we supported 465. By implementing the statement of intent we will increase the chances of top-level success for our elite athletes.” 

Meanwhile, in search of greater insights to support athlete performance Sport Ireland has partnered with Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics to explore the myriad of performance data the Institute collects every day. 

Professor Noel O'Connor, CEO Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics and Professor at the School of Electronic Engineering, Dublin City University, said: “The partnership with the Sport Ireland Institute is extremely exciting for Insight. We look forward to helping the Institute realise the true value of its data to better support Irish athletes and help them reach the level of excellence to which they aspire. It is a great example of how data-rich national organisations can benefit from partnering with the research expertise in our universities.”