Eimear Lambe knows much can change for Ireland’s medal heroes

Dubliner basking in glory of Tokyo but Paris in 2024 is very much coming into focus

Whether the band gets back together or not after Tokyo is up in the air. Or is it? “It is and it isn’t,” says Eimear Lambe. The Women’s Four, Aifric Keogh, Fiona Murtagh, Emily Hegarty and Lambe, who became the first Irish women to medal in Olympic rowing, need to take some decompression time. That or some post-Olympic equivalent of the bends.

The love in on returning to Ireland after they leapt ahead of Britain and on to the podium is in the rearview mirror. For Lambe it was an ambition she never thought she would achieve until the final stretch on Tokyo Bay last month.

Now, well it is chill time before the shadow of Paris begins to grow and the four make the decision for total commitment or none. Rowing is like that. It’s a zero sum game. You are either totally immersed or totally out.

“See, it’s kind of hard,” says Lambe. “You’re coming off such a high from the Olympics, and you have such momentum. There is such a build-up, and naturally there is going to be such a lull straight after. I think it’s really important to take the time to kind of breathe and take in what you’ve done and what you’ve achieved.


“I think that was more than any of us thought we were going to do when we first set out. I think it would be so easy to be ‘okay, now on to the next goal’, but there is no guarantee Paris will work out the same way.”

The edge rowing has at world level is that the bronze medal does not automatically determine that the same four athletes will occupy the boat in three years’ time. Gary O’Donovan, who won silver with brother Paul in Rio found that Fintan McCarthy was a better fit four years later.

In that light, talk about Paris will take place and even though the medal will have changed lives, ambitions and self-belief, any discussion will be undertaken with respect for the seat of the boat. To be one of the four is the first challenge to meet head on.

“I’m not making any definite decisions yet,” says Lambe. “It’s definitely on the cards. I’m just happy at the moment being in Dublin. I’m from Dublin but had to move to Cork for the last few years so I’m just going to stay here, definitely keep rowing - the reason I row is because I love the sport, it was never really about the end goals for me.

“That was a motivating factor but rowing as a sport is such a commitment that if you don’t really love the day to day, it isn’t sustainable.

“So I’m going to keep rowing here, train with Aifric, keep my foot in the door, keep doing the trials, and then when the time comes I’ll make the decision and yeah, Paris could definitely be on the cards.”

The interesting part is that if the four remain, there will have to be an alteration in goal setting. They are a bronze medal boat that, according to Lambe, didn’t perform to its best in the first half of the Olympic final.

In Paris, they will be at least a podium crew. Those are the expectations, silver or gold. Any decision making process will have that in mind.

“I think on the day I don’t think we performed our best and that’s probably something that doesn’t sit well with us,” she says. “We know ourselves that we did probably underperform especially in the first half of the race.

“So, going forward we’ll set that right and try and have a perfect race. We want to be contending for gold and silver. Obviously that didn’t happen so yeah priority is go for it, see if we can right it a little bit.”

The week after she came back a man walked over to Lambe’s family group in a pub and stopped to chat with her dad. Ten minutes later a bottle of champagne was delivered to the table courtesy of the stranger. The draw of an Olympic medal.

“A bit of a whirlwind,” she says. And something you could get used to.