True to form and practice Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan easily navigated their opening heat of the lightweight double sculls at the World Rowing Championships, with a gentle reminder of their likely challengers come their title defence.
Blustery conditions at Racice’s Labe Arena in the Czech Republic didn’t make for straightforward racing, still the Skibbereen pair neatly executed their preferred tactic of holding back a little in the first half, before powering home in the second.
It was the local Czech crew who got the jump this time, leading McCarthy and O’Donovan by about a third of a boat length through 500 metres; by halfway the Irish crew were about level, before promptly moving in front in the third quarter, winning the fifth of the five heats in 6:15.11, the Czech crew holding on for second, the quarter-finals up next.
Like at the European Championships last month, when McCarthy and O’Donovan came through to win in advance of the Italian and Swiss crews, these again look like the crews to beat. The Swiss pair of Raphael Ahumada Ireland Jan Schaeuble won the fourth heat in 6:16.70, while the Italian pair of Stefano Oppo Pietro Ruta won the first heat in 6:19.96.
There were 29 crews in all in the division, still it already looks likely to come down to these three. The first World Championships since 2019, featuring 65 nations, it sees O’Donovan looking to further extend his status one of the most decorated sportsman in Irish sporting history: Olympic gold and Olympic silver, four World Championship titles, three European Championship gold and two silver — and not forgetting the Henley regatta he won with McCarthy not long after Tokyo, a prize he jested was possibly the bigger deal anyway.
Six of the 13 Irish crews were in action on the opening day, four progressing directly to their quarter-finals. Phil Doyle experienced a hugely disappointing Olympics last year in comparison, the now 30 year-old Belfast-based doctor coming to Racice with a new men’s doubles partner in Konan Pazzaia, the Swiss-born rower whose mother hails from Belfast.
Racing in the second heat, they moved to the front early on along with the Lithuanian crew, faded a little in the second half of the race, still held on for a comfortable second place, also progressing to the quarter-finals, the Lithuanian pair winning in 6:14.61, Doyle and Pazzaia finishing in 6:17.70.
In the men’s single sculls, Brian Colsh also progressed to quarter-final after placing third in his heat, won by Stefanos Ntouskos from Greece in 6:55.30,
Hugh Moore went through in the lightweight men’s single sculls after placing fourth in his heat, while Alison Bergin from Fermoy will next race the repechage of the women’s single sculls after placing fourth in her heat.
Lydia Heaphy from Skibbereen will also next race the repechage of the lightweight women’s single sculls after finishing second in her heat, won by Kenia Lechuga from Mexico in 7:35.58.
The Irish women’s four that won an Olympic bronze medal in Tokyo has been reunited, with Emily Hegarty returning to that boat alongside Fiona Murtagh, Eimear Lambe and Aifric Keogh, their heat set for Monday morning.
Rowing World Championships: Irish in action on Monday (all times Irish)
8.50: PR2 W1x: Katie O’Brien (Galway RC)
9.18: W2-: Natalie Long (Lee Valley RC), Tara Hanlon (UCC RC)
9.48 LW2x: Margaret Cremen (UCC RC), Aoife Casey (UCC RC)
10.20: W2x: Zoe Hyde (Killorglin RC), Sanita Puspure (Old Collegians)
11.08: W4-:Emily Hegarty (UCC RC), Fiona Murtagh (NUIG BC), Eimear Lambe (Old Collegians), Aifric Keogh (DULBC)
11.26: M4-: John Kearney (UCC RC), Ross Corrigan (QUBBC), Nathan Timoney (QUBBC), Jack Dorney (Shandon BC)