Rio 2016: Both Irish crews into rowing finals
Sinead Jennings, Claire Lambe and the O’Donovan brothers will go for gold on Friday
A sparkling day on the water for Irish rowing team has placed both the women and men’s lightweight double sculls crews in Friday morning’s Olympic finals at the Lagoa venue. Sinead Jennings and Claire Lambe will start in lane six in the first of the finals at 2.32pm (Irish time), followed by the O’Donovan brothers, Paul and Gary, at 2.44pm.
It is the first time an Irish crew has appeared in an Olympic final since the lightweight fours in Athens in 2004. After a disappointing five days for the Irish boxing team, who came into Rio under a heavy weight of expectancy, it was a wonderful day for both Irish crews and helped to atone for the disappointment suffered by singles sculler Sanita Puspure, who was edged out of final contention.
“Tis brilliant for the two girls to qualify,” said Paul O’Donovan when the unflappable Cork brothers appeared after their warm-down.
“And Sanita was desperately unlucky too. Tis all great anyway. We love the sport of rowing and would do anything we can to promote it and represent and we are delighted we can be good embassadors for the sport. Not just for Skibbereen but for the sport as a whole and its a huge honour.”
Both Irish crews finished in third place, with the women’s team rowing a controlled and comfortable race from the beginning and easing through the pace set by the Danish crew.
“Sinead set a fabulous rhythm off the start and I just knew we were in our thing,” said Lambe afterwards.
“And the boat was going well. And when I know we are good then I felt confident we could get down the track in a good position. Probably the last 250 metres some doubts came: ‘Oh God if something goes wrong’. We just had to hold it together and stay inside this. And we did so . . . happy out.”
The Irish pair will row in lane six in Friday’s final. The South African and Dutch crews take the centre tlanes and the field is completed by Canada (lane two), New Zealand (lane 5) and the Chinese (lane six).
“We didn’t have to empty the tank so hopefully that will stand to us,” said Jennings.
The O’Donovan boys were at the starting point for the next race and although they were fourth after the first 500 metres, trailing France by two seconds after their lightning start, the race was shaping up along the lines they expected.
“Ourselves and America: we pace it a little bit more . . . the first ten or twenty strokes we go pretty hard but then we settle and we knew that if we stuck in there with the Americans that we’d kinda truck on through the middle,” said Paul.”
They were half a second ahead of the Great Britain boat going into the final 500 metres of the 2000 metres track and knew that their neighbours tended to fire over the final quarter. The O’Donovan’s finished a comfortable third, extending their remarkable rise over the past twelve months. The French crew posted the fastest time – 6.34.43. The Irish finished on 6.35.70.
A vocal Irish crowd made it seem like old times at this stunning Olympic rowing venue, reminiscent of an era when Irish rowing hopes were the best hope of bringing home a medal. With little advance fare, this year’s team have placed themselves in the rare position of having a chance to bring home two medals within a half hour. The country will be watching.