Ireland’s Paul O’Donovan and Gary O’Donovan rowed through dreadful, squally, conditions to win their heat of the lightweight double sculls at the World Cup Regatta in Poznan, Poland, on Friday. The win was important, as it takes them directly to the A Final.
Right through the race the O’Donovans came under real pressure from China, racing in their first international regatta this season. The Skibbereen men, unusually for them, took over in the lead before halfway and refused to yield.
Olympic champions France won the other semi final in a time almost two seconds faster than Ireland.
Meanwhile Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll continued on their winning way in Poznan. Only pride was at stake in the test race of the lightweight pair, but Britain and Ireland battled it out, with less than a boat length separating them . . . until the Britain crew of Joel Cassells and Sam Scrimgeour effectively conceded in the final quarter. They actually took third behind Brazil.
Sanita Puspure finished third and Monika Dukarska fourth in their heat of the women’s single sculls, missing out on direct qualification for the A/B semi-finals.
Vicky Thornley of Britain took control early on and won, and the final stages of the race developed into a battle between Puspure and Hannah Osborne of New Zealand for the crucial second place. With just 100 metres to go, Puspure looked to have it, but Osborne closed it out with the last few strokes.
Dukarska, back at the venue which is just minutes from where she grew up, competed well, though she was seven seconds behind Puspure at the end.
The Ireland pair of Aifric Keogh and Aileen Crowley, on their first outing, finished fourth in their heat.
Earlier, Denise Walsh secured her place in the semi-finals with a steady second place finish in her heat.
The Ireland lightweight single sculler beat Patricia Merz to take silver at the European Championships. However, on Friday morning in the tricky conditions of a tailwind and sometimes bobbly water, she was content to let the Swiss win and take the second automatic place, seeing off a challenge by local challenger Joanna Dorociak.
Walsh said she knew she will have a tougher semi-final by not winning, but that race and the final are on Saturday. “I will have two races tomorrow, so it was important to conserve energy,” she said.
The heat was the fastest of three in one of the best-attended events at this regatta. “There are probably more (challengers) here than there will be at the World Championships,” Walsh pointed out.
Sweden’s Emma Fredh, the gold medallist from the European Championships and newcomer Jackie Kiddle of New Zealand won the first two heats.