Family of Irish Olympians celebrate as youngest wins bronze with rowing team

Dublin woman Eimear Lambe follows older sister who competed at the Rio Olympics

  The family of Eimear Lambe, one of the four Irish rowers to win an Olympic bronze medal, celebrate at home in Cabra, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The family of Eimear Lambe, one of the four Irish rowers to win an Olympic bronze medal, celebrate at home in Cabra, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The Lambe family home on Dublin’s Old Cabra Road is unmistakable.

It’s the one with the bunting and the large poster of the Irish women’s rowing crew before they embarked on their trip to the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“Best of luck to Eimear Lambe and the women’s four at the Tokyo Olympics,” it says, showing Eimear, Emily Hegarty, Aifric Keogh and Fiona Murtagh with the silver medals they won at the European Rowing Championships in April.

A new poster may soon be needed as the bronze medals the four have won at the Olympic games, after facing the best rowers in the world as opposed to just from this continent, have surpassed even that major achievement.

Ireland’s Eimear Lambe (second from left) and her rowing team-mates Aifric Keogh, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty celebrate with their bronze medals. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Ireland’s Eimear Lambe (second from left) and her rowing team-mates Aifric Keogh, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty celebrate with their bronze medals. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

It was a late night and early morning for the Lambe family: Eimear’s father Noel, mother Sheila and her sisters Aideen and Sinéad. They gathered at the Commercial Rowing Club in Islandbridge with 20 other members to watch the race, which started at 1.50am.

“We were socially distanced,” explains Noel. “It was nice to do it in the commercial. That’s where they all started.”

Relieved

There was not much sleep between trying to contact their daughter in Tokyo and taking phone calls from the media, extended family and well-wishers.

Five years ago, older sister Claire was part of the women’s lightweight double sculls with her team-mate Sinead Lynch that reached the Olympic final in Rio. They were the first Irish women’s crew to get that far.

Noel says the family were initially relieved that Eimear (23), his youngest daughter, even made it to Tokyo, given the doubts that persisted over the staging of the games because of Covid-19.

“We were hoping that they would make the final. The fact that they medalled was phenomenal and the style in which they did it. They had a slow start, they didn’t panic and they powered through the field,” he says.

Despite having two Olympians in the family, there is “no back story” as far as being a sporting family is concerned, Noel says. Sinéad, the eldest daughter, started at 14 in the commercial during a summer camp.

“You get hooked. You definitely wouldn’t have expected it from us when we were 14, 15 or 16,” says former Olympian Claire, who retired four years ago aged 27 and now works for Rowing Ireland on their women in sport programme.

She believes Wednesday morning’s result is going “to be a game changer” for the sport.

Inspire

“They will inspire a lot of junior athletes coming up the ranks. They can now see what’s possible and they will have those role models to train alongside and create more competition for Paris. It is the start of something pretty special for Irish women’s rowing,” she says.

“All of us who are going to compete at the Olympics aren’t going to win a medal. I was pretty happy with our results in Rio. To see Eimear go and achieve a medal it was pretty amazing.”

The family were unable to travel to Tokyo because of the pandemic, but are looking forward to seeing Eimear on Sunday when the rowers return.

Hopes are high that the women’s fours will not be the only ones to come back with their own pieces of precious metal.