Rowing: O’Donovan and O’Driscoll opt for heavyweight route

World champions switch from lightweight in order to pursue their Olympics dream

 Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll celebrate victory in the lightweight pairs at the World Rowing Championships in Sarasota, Florida. Photograph: Detlev Seyb/Inpho

Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll celebrate victory in the lightweight pairs at the World Rowing Championships in Sarasota, Florida. Photograph: Detlev Seyb/Inpho

 

They were one of the sports stories of the year. Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll came from fourth in the world in 2016 to winning three World Cup regattas, a European Championships and a World title as a lightweight pair this year.

There were only two ways in which they could turn this run into a challenge at the Olympics in 2020; one or both of them would have to oust Paul and Gary O’Donovan as the top lightweight double – or they would have to go heavyweight.

They opted to bulk up and try to excel as a heavyweight pair.

“We have to do this. We want to go to an Olympics and this is the best way of going,” O’Driscoll said. “It’s a new chapter, similar to when we started out in the lightweight pair and every year we are going to build on it, up until Tokyo,” he told the Southern Star.

“We are going to lose a World Championships medal each year but we hope to gain an Olympics spot.”

The choice came after long discussions with Dominic Casey, the Ireland lightweight coach who had brought them to this level.

Casey spoke of how he and Rowing Ireland would support the athletes. But talking about this decision before and after the announcement he referred to the longer legs and longer arms of the bigger men they would face.

Big challenge

Eleven of the heavyweight crews at the World Championships finals set faster times than that which won gold for O’Driscoll and O’Donovan, though they, of course, had to sweat down to a lower weight.

So does Casey think they can hit the mark as heavyweights?

“That’s a very hard question,” he says.

However, he knows these are determined men and they want to go to the Olympics. And they will have backing from him.

“At elite level it won’t happen unless you go after it,” Casey concluded.

Ireland high performance director, Antonio Maurogiovanni, was also supportive. “It is a big challenge, but they are very motivated, [have a] very positive mental attitude, so why not?”

O’Driscoll and O’Donovan (who were honoured this week at the Irish Youth Foundation awards) will travel to New Zealand and Australia next month with Gary O’Donovan and Paul O’Donovan and will train and compete their for three months.

Maurogiovanni said Casey would also spend some weeks there and would continue to coach both crews until they return.

Maurogiovanni is busy. Next Monday (December 11th) he will address a meeting at Lee Rowing Club; on Tuesday the venue is NUIG and on Wednesday he will be at Shannon RC.

There will be a camp for Ireland aspirants next weekend (December 16th and 17th) and the Ireland trial is on December 23rd.

Three Irish crews start the Atlantic Challenge next week, while rowing boats and canoes will take to the Liffey this Saturday (December 9th) for the annual All-In-A-Row charity event in aid of the RNLI and the Irish Underwater Search and Recovery Unit.

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