Paul O’Donovan forges bronze on good weekend for Irish rowing
The 19-year-old finishes third in final of lightweight sculls as results suggest squad is on the upswing
Paul O’Donovan: “It’s definitely the goal in the next four years to make it to Rio. We’ll see how that goes.”
Paul O’Donovan may have turned 19 just three months ago, but he reached the final in a senior World Cup last month and yesterday he stepped up on the podium in Linz in Austria to accept a bronze medal at the World Under-23 Championships. “I was standing there, feeling almost weak after the race, very tired, but once you stand up on the podium it’s like a new energy. You get a big lift from it, ” he said.
It was also a boost for Irish rowing at the end of a championships which suggested that it is on an upswing. The women’s four came agonisingly close to a medal and lightweight sculler Denise Walsh also reached an A Final, finishing sixth. Ireland’s other crews finished ninth, 10th and 12th, with Adam Boreham taking 24th in the single sculls.
In the final of the men’s lightweight single sculls, O’Donovan judged correctly that 21-year-old American prodigy Andrew Campbell Jr was always going to be the star turn. “I knew that he has a quick start and he would be quick to the 1,000 metres, so I was expecting that. I was a bit slow in some of the races, so the plan was to work on the first 500 metres. I think I did that pretty well. I was up with the rest of the leading group.”
Campbell stayed ahead to the finish, while Franciscus Goutier of the Netherlands and O’Donovan disputed second and third into the closing stages. But New Zealand’s Adam Ling then tore into the fray. “I kept pushing so that he wouldn’t catch me out,” O’Donovan said. “That happened to me before at the Juniors (the World Junior Championships in 2011). I just missed out on a bronze medal by a third of a second. I just kind of kept it going so that wouldn’t happen again.”
Goutier took the silver and O’Donovan bronze. “I’m relieved that I got something out of it,” said the Skibbereen man, who is a scholarship student in UCD. He was adding to a run of 12 medals for Ireland crews in this event, stretching back to the days when it was called the Match des Seniors.
O’Donovan is thinking of the Olympics, but not too much. He would, most likely, have to be part of a lightweight double or four. “Yerra, there’s another three years yet to be working on that. It’s definitely the goal in the next four years to make it to Rio. We’ll see how that goes.”
The women’s four were terribly disappointed not to medal in their final on Saturday. They were third with the final quarter to go but hit a buoy and caught a crab (missed a stroke). New Zealand, who were behind them, rowed through and took bronze, behind runaway winners Australia and Russia.
Walsh, who had qualified for the A Final of the lightweight single sculls by finishing third in her semi-final on Saturday, found the pace set by gold-medallist Aikaterini Nikolaidou of Greece too hot yesterday.
O’Donovan missed the party for the Irish team as he sat drinking six litres of water in doping control – and talking to the The Irish Times on Ireland performance director Morten Espersen’s mobile phone. O’Donovan’s long-time coach is his father, Teddy O’Donovan, who couldn’t make it to Linz. Had he talked to him about the race?
“Not yet. I have no credit on my phone, so he can’t ring me and I can’t ring him, like. It’s a bit of a disaster.”
He is 19 after all.