Paul and Gary O’Donovan make history with silver medal in Rio

O’Donovan brothers from Cork claim a first ever Olympic rowing medal for Ireland

Ireland's Paul O'Donovan and Gary O'Donovan won the first Irish rowing medal at the Olympic Games today. The Ireland lightweight double took silver behind France in a thrilling finish in Rio de Janeiro.

France were the top crew at the 1,000 metres and 1500 metres, but they took gold only after a three-boat charge to the line. The O'Donovans, from UCD and Skibbereen rowing clubs gave the French the severest test, but the Irish had to hold off Norway who finished third. Just .7 of a second covered the three crews.

The O’Donovans had said all season that their aim was to win gold in Rio de Janeiro, and they competed as if they meant it. They did not make their usual slow start and were in the hunt all through.

On a wet morning at the Lagoa, the Cork brothers shone with a fine performance that brought with it a deserved podium spot.


The O’Donovans produced the race of their life, with another strong finish seeing them come from fifth at the halfway mark to win silver in six minutes 31.23 seconds.

The Skibbereen siblings got their regatta under way by winning their heat, before a rapid finish saw them through to the final in third. Drawn in lane one, a medal appeared a big ask yet their power in the final half of the race brought with it a place on the podium. France's Pierre Houin and Jeremie Azou secured gold, 0.53 secs ahead of the O'Donovan brothers.

“We’re still trying to come to terms with it. We wanted to win gold medal but to come away with the silver, we’re just so happy,” said Paul afterwards.

You pulled like dogs? “We did yeah. We are a little bit disappointed we didn’t come away with the gold medal. We’re afraid to go home, Mick Conlan said he’d box the head off us if we didn’t win gold!”

Ireland's Sinead Lynch and Claire Lambe had to settle for sixth place in their final of the lightweight double sculls.

The race was won impressively by the Netherlands. They started well and were in the leading group of three with South Africa and the China. As they other two faded, the Netherlands pushed on and held off a challenge by Canada, who took silver, with China third.

The Ireland crew did not start badly and held on to the leading group until halfway. But they needed to be in the mix in the closing stages and were not.

After heavy rain in the morning, the conditions cleared and were reasonable for rowing.

Coleraine man Alan Campbell, representing Britain, had to settle for a B Final place in the single sculls, as he finished second in the semi-final. Another Coleraine man, Richard Chambers, was in the lightweight double crew which won the B Final. His brother, Peter, had been in the Britain lightweight four which won the B Final.