Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy squeezed out Norway and Germany in the World Cup series to win a gold medal in the lightweight men’s double sculls in Lucerne.
In a highly successful weekend in which Ireland boats won five medals, the Irish pair were over three seconds quicker than second placed Norway. Despite a slow start, which has become the norm now for the current European champions, by the end there was clear daylight between the Skibbereen pair and the rest of the crews.
Looking unbeatable all year and with the Olympic Games just 60 days away, the Irish boat covered the 2000m course in 6:15.48 with Norway finishing in 6:18.47.
At one stage Ireland were in last place but picked off the boats one by one and by the halfway stage they had taken the lead. From that point there was no looking back for O’Donovan and McCarthy.
“It was a really tough race,” said O’Donovan. “Norway were pushing us all the way down. They are really tough competitors. I’m really fatigued now. The coach will probably allow us half a day off now.”
World champion Sanita Puspure had to make do with the bronze medal when she was beaten into third place in the women’s single sculls.
Puspure covered the course in 7:30.02, almost two seconds behind winner and European champion Hanna Prakhatsen. The young Russian has not lost a race this year and will be one of Puspure’s main rivals for a medal in Tokyo.
“I gave it my best,” said Puspure. “I know I’m well behind the whole team in terms of my form. It was a tough race and I didn’t necessarily expect to be on the podium. But it was really exciting to race.”
It was a highly successful weekend for Irish crews with eight out of nine qualifying for ‘A’ finals.
Ronan Byrne and Philip Doyle also won silver in the men's double sculls. At the 1,500m mark the pair were leading the race but the Chinese boat, upping their pace in the final metres, just nicked gold at the finish.
“It was really good. It’s nice to show what we’re capable of,” said Doyle. “We lose contact with each other over the winter but once we start coming together, we know we have that basic boat speed. It’s promising coming up to the Olympics, but it keeps us hungry.”
Another silver medal came from Monika Dukarska and Aileen Crowley in the women's pair. Romania led the race from early on with Spain in second place. But in the closing 1,000m the Irish boat made their move and in a closing sprint to the line, it was the Irish pair who split winners Spain and Romania in third.
Lydia Heaphy, also from Skibbereen, won silver on Saturday in the lightweight women's single sculls in a time of 8:25.15. Despite facing tough opposition, Heaphy held strong and managed to edge ahead of Italian rower Federica Cesarini, to secure second place.
‘It was a hard race with tough conditions, but I stuck to my race plan,” said Heaphy. “The Irish team has had a great regatta so far so I took a lot of confidence from that and I’m really pleased with my result.”
Gary O'Donovan, brother of Paul, competed in the lightweight men's single sculls final A but was placed just outside the medals in a time of 7:24.52. O'Donovan was rowing alongside Chilean Felipe Andres Cardenas Morales, who finished just ahead of him by a tenth of a second.