Jennings overcomes bad start to claim silver


ROWING:SINÉAD JENNINGS took silver for Ireland at the World Championships for non-Olympic events at Linz in Austria yesterday. The Donegal woman had set her heart on gold in the lightweight single scull, but she was caught within sight of the line by Pamela Weisshaupt of Switzerland.

"I was really disappointed at first - I thought I had it. But when I looked up at the Tricolour going up at the medal ceremony, I thought 'it's not often you see that'. So I'm delighted to have got a medal."

In a hard-fought race, Jennings had a bad start but battled well from there on and took the lead with 500 metres to go. But Weisshaupt was stronger at the finish and won by just over half a second. Croatia's Mirna Rajle Brodanac was third, almost four seconds behind Jennings.

Jennings (32) was completing her set of World Championship medals with this result: she stormed on to the scene with a bronze medal in 2000 and followed up with a gold in the glory year of 2001, where present boyfriend Sam Lynch won the first of his two golds.

Lynch, who was on hand to cheer Jennings on, had assisted coach Pat McInerney with Jennings's programme.

The Donegal woman had a season where her medical studies and rowing fought for her time. She was determined to go to the Olympics and was bitterly disappointed when her entry for the Olympic Qualifier in the single scull was not sanctioned. But yesterday she was in good form. "There go any thoughts of retirement," she joked. "I'll have to come back again next year and win!"

Eugene and Richard Coakley placed ninth overall in the men's lightweight pair by finishing third in the B final. Switzerland's Mario Gyr and Simon Niepmann, who had a dramatic and unlucky exit from the semi-final on Friday when Gyr collapsed close to the line, were fired up and led in the early stages and at the finish.

Between those points, New Zealand and Ireland both took over at the head of the field - Ireland led at 1,500 metres - but Gyr and Niepmann were not to be denied and won well. Ireland had second until the closing stages when Denmark came through them.

"We had a brilliant middle thousand," said Eugene Coakley afterwards, but added that crews which come together late, as they did, tend to suffer at the start and finish.

It was a similar story with the men's coxed pair of James Wall, Alan Martin and Mike Griffin. They were competitive in the middle of their B final but were pushed into sixth and last in a race dominated by Eastern European crews. Hungary won from Serbia, with the United States in third. Ireland held fourth at halfway but Slovenia and, then, Croatia moved past them.

Martin said afterwards it was their best race since the crew was formed, "but it was just not good enough." The crew only came together on Monday.

Richard Coakley and Martin travel out to Beijing today as the reserves for the lightweight and heavyweight fours respectively.

Some of the rising talent in Ireland was on show at the Home International regatta in Cardiff on Saturday. The junior women's eight won - following up a win at the same grade at the recent Coupe de la Jeunesse - as did the junior men's quadruple scull, and it's junior women's equivalent.

At senior level, there were wins for Orlagh Duddy (lightweight single scull) and Virginia Hourihane (single scull) and the men's pair of Patrick Moore and Bryan O'Carroll.