Paul O’Donovan pulled back for normal rowing triumphs

After medal in Rio it is a trip to Rotterdam and bid to become world champion

Sanita Puspure has already got sights on the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Photograph: James Crosbie/Inpho.

Sanita Puspure has already got sights on the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Photograph: James Crosbie/Inpho.

 

He is an Olympic silver medallist and a European gold medallist. This week he flew from Rio to Rotterdam so he can bid to become a world champion in the lightweight single sculls (a non-Olympic event) in the same year.

Why would Paul O’Donovan leave the craic and the Olympic village behind to put himself through such a test?

“I’ve spent four to five years of my life in a single scull and I enjoyed it. I’ve had a great year of training, so I wanted to make the most of it.

“We’ve had a week of partying in Rio. Sure if we want to drink the s***t out of it we can do that at home.”

Paul and his brother, and fellow Olympic medallist, Gary, return to Skibbereen on Monday week. Fame is new to the O’Donovans. World fame.

‘Calm down’

It was the best Olympic Games for Irish rowing, with the lightweight women’s double of Claire Lambe and Sinéad Lynch reaching their A Final. In most projections about where Irish rowing goes next, there has been an assumption that Lynch, who will turn 40 next month, will now cast aside her oars.

Think again. “I’ll probably do the [Ireland] trials in October,” she said, though she said she was assessing her position. Her lightweight doubles partner, Lambe, is off to Cambridge University for at least a year.

Single sculler Sanita Puspure says she is still frustrated to have finished in same position (13th) in Rio as in London. “I’m a much better athlete now,” she says, pointing to a season which saw her take medals in a World Cup and European Championships. If the structures are in place she is ambitious to excel. “Is it too early for #Tokyo?” she jokes.

Rowing Ireland chief executive Hamish Adams met high-performance director Morten Espersen for a debriefing session. “No long-term decisions have been made,” Adams stressed. Along with Neville Maxwell and Mike Heskin, the chief executive formed a working group which consulted widely and reported to the board.

More funding is crucial. In the four years to Rio 2016, the high-performance system received €1.57 million from Sport Ireland, less than Hockey, Horse Sport, Swim Ireland, or the Olympic Council of Ireland(OCI) – €1.721 million).

One rower on Thursday contrasted the first-class travel that OCI chair Pat Hickey enjoys with the standard seats booked for competitors.

Rowing has been well represented on the executive of the OCI, with Dermot Henihan, a former president of the Irish Amateur Rowing Union, rising to the position of honorary general secretary.

The World Rowing Championships in Rotterdam runs from this Sunday to next Sunday, August 28th. In the senior events, Paul O’Donovan will be joined by Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll in a lightweight pair.

The event incorporates the junior and under-23 championships. Ireland have two crews in both: Dominic Casey’s daughter, Aoife, features in the junior women’s double.

Back home, the Olympic camp for new rowers drew 27 aspirants to Neptune Rowing Club at Islandbridge. The programme featured the “Pull Like a Dog” challenge.

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