The Summer Olympics in Tokyo are well underway as athletes from across the world represent their home countries and go all out to achieve a lifelong dream of winning an Olympic gold medal in their respective sport.
Passionate American and NTT INDYCAR SERIES athlete Conor Daly is rooting on the United States in every sport he can possibly find to watch. But he’s also rooting for a very specific athlete: Nicola Daly of Ireland – better known as his cousin Nicci.
Nicci is a forward for Ireland’s women’s field hockey team in this year’s Olympic Games. It is her first appearance in the Olympics. She and Team Ireland won the silver medal in the 2018 Women’s Field Hockey World Cup after a 6-0 loss to the Netherlands in the finals.
Realizing her lifelong dream of becoming an Olympic athlete adds to an impressive lineage for the Daly family. Nicci’s father, Vivion, was a race car driver, having competed in Formula Ford and Formula Opel Nations Cup.
Her uncle, Conor’s dad, Derek, raced in the INDYCAR SERIES and Formula One in the 1980s, while Conor competes in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES for Ed Carpenter Racing and Carlin. Conor’s mom, Beth Boles, is a world champion novice jet ski racer, and his brother Christian is a multi-time world champion pro jet ski racer.
Conor said the entire family is proud of the continued success Nicci is giving the family name in Tokyo.
“It’s very, very special, and we’re very proud of her,” Conor said. “She’s put many, many years of work into this. You know what, competing is incredible, and we’re all super excited for her to have a chance to bring home a medal for herself and for Ireland.
“I’ve had a friend that I loosely knew that was in the Olympics, but this is a family member. It’s really, really cool. I’ve never been more excited for the Olympics, that’s for sure. People need to watch women’s field hockey. It’s going to be an electric show.”
So far, Nicci and Team Ireland have won one match and lost another. The team beat South Africa in its first match on Saturday, 2-0. On Monday, Netherlands beat Ireland, 4-0.
Nicci, 33, has been playing field hockey since age 14, but she has another passion that runs deep in her family: auto racing. Nicci lists her father, who passed away from lung cancer in 2002, and her uncle Derek as her influences in life.
Their passion for racing led her down the same path. She earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Institute of Technology Tallaght, Dublin and has a master’s degree in motorsport engineering from Cranfield University in England.
That education brought her to the United States where she worked as a data engineer for Juncos Racing in Indy Lights from 2016-19. Eventually, Nicci had to choose between furthering her career as a motorsports engineer or pursuing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to train for the Olympics in field hockey.
While she obviously chose the latter and returned home to Ireland to achieve much success, Nicci has been working to expand opportunities for women in motorsports in her home country.
In 2018, she founded a motorsports organization called Formula Female in Ireland. The organization works to get more young women in Ireland involved in motorsports.
Formula Female then teamed up with Sport Ireland, Team Ireland and Motorsport Ireland to introduce the Go Girls Karting initiative. As a part of the initiative, schools across Ireland are invited to take part in the project as the organizations introduce young females to motorsports via STEM education and the career opportunities it presents.
Conor, 29, said their mutual passion for motorsports and proximity in age made the two cousins extremely close, and they spent a lot of time with each other while Nicci was in the United States working for Juncos Racing.
“It was great to have her at the racetrack,” he said. “I talk to her a lot because she loves racing. She’s into racing and engineering. When she came over, it was really cool to see her get the opportunity to work in the paddock, and she loved it. It was really cool for her to get a chance to come over here.”
Daly said he’ll be watching the rest of Pool A coverage of Olympic women’s field hockey live on NBC Sports this week as Ireland plays Germany tonight at 11:15 p.m. (ET), India on Thursday, July 29 at 10:45 p.m. ET and Great Britain on Saturday, July 31 at 7:45 a.m. ET.
“Obviously, I’m a big USA guy and I love America, but I do have an Irish passport, as well,” Conor said. “You know what, I can absolutely cheer for Team Ireland. The women’s field hockey team, they’re electric superstars, so hopefully we can cheer them on to a medal. Me and my friends, we’re going to sit down, have a cold beverage and watch some field hockey at some bar somewhere.”