Sanita Puspure defends her World Championship gold in Austria

Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne earlier took silver in the double scull

Sanita Puspure punched the air as she won gold for Ireland at the World Rowing Championships, adding it to the silver of the Ireland double scull of Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne to make it a wonderful day for the Irish.

This was a demanding race at the end of a tough year for Puspure.

Emma Twigg of New Zealand laid down a formidable pace, and led through the middle stages and all the way to 1,500 metres. Puspure chased her down, kept her head well and passed her in the final 500 metres to retain her title with a clear-water win.

She had won all her four races here, but this looked like her hardest.


“Mentally, maybe, yeh. The previous ones I was ahead, so it was easy.

“It is easier to be relaxed and in control when you can see where everybody is. This time I had to glance over a few times to see if I was hauling [Twigg] back, gaining on her.”

There has been heartbreak for Puspure since she last won the title as her sister, Inese, died of cancer.

“It was a tough year. There were times when I thought I’d be happy just to qualify. I’m really pleased how it went. I hope she [Inese] would be proud of me as well.

“Now, finally, I can put training and competition aside and go home and reflect on what happened and cry my eyes out. Now is the time.”

Doyle and Byrne raced to a silver which seemed unlikely for most of the 2,000 metres.

China took control of the race almost from the start line. Ireland trailed and were fourth at 1,000 metres. They seemed too far back to influence the race.

But they found speed when they needed it. They passed Switzerland and Poland and bore down on the Chinese. The men in red did not falter, even as Doyle and Byrne – cheered on by the Irish in the crowd – overlapped them.

Doyle said they had been working on their speed in the third 500 metres. It had worked in the semi-final and again in this medal race.

“A bit more in the legs and maybe we would have had [gold]. We tried our best.”

Byrne chipped in: “I think another five strokes and we would have caught them. We knew they were spent.

“We went to a level we had not been to before. But, in fairness, they held us off.”

In an event in which 80 countries had entries, Ireland finished eighth on the medal table, just ahead of the much bigger Great Britain team. Ireland amassed two golds, a silver and a bronze. Four boats were qualified for the Olympics.

Pararower Katie O’Brien had first put Ireland on the podium with her bronze medal. The Ireland lightweight double of Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy struck gold on Saturday.

“They didn’t have a great start out of the blocks. But they kept their heads, clawed their way back,” was coach Dominic Casey’s summation of a memorable race.

The bearded warrior that is Paul O’Donovan looked like a king out of Game of Thrones charging in from distance to vanquish the enemy.

Germany and Italy had led, but looked shattered afterwards.

This made it four world championships (two in the lightweight single) for Paul O’Donovan since the silver in Rio.

The new Ireland women’s four missed out on Olympic qualification, but the pair of Aileen Crowley and Monika Dukarska raced well and booked a place for the boat in Tokyo.

The Ireland high-performance director, Antonio Maurogiovanni, hugged them tight and praised them.

“Antonio said it is a new chapter,” said Crowley.

And a thrilling tale it is.


At Linz-Ottensheim (Irish interest): Saturday – Men Lightweight Double A Final: 1 Ireland (F McCarthy, P O’Donovan) 6:37.28, 2 Italy 6:39.71, 3 Germany 6:41.07.

Women Four – B Final (First two book Olympic places for boat): 1 Britain 6:55.08, 2 Canada 6:56.99; 3 China 7:02.28, 4 Ireland (T Hanlon, E Lambe, A Keogh, E Hegarty) 7:02.71.

Pair – B Final (First five book Olympic places for boat): 1 Romania 7:18.88, 2 Ireland (A Crowley, M Dukarska) 7:20.68.

Lightweight Double Sculls – C Final (Places 13 to 18): 1 China 7:00.82;

5 Ireland (A Casey, D Walsh) 7:10.52.

Sunday – Men – Double Sculls A Final: 1 China 6:05.68, 2 Ireland (P Doyle, R Byrne) 6:06.25, 3 Poland 6:07.87.

Women – Single Sculls A Final: 1 Ireland (S Puspure) 7:17.14, 2 New Zealand (E Twigg) 7:20.56, 3 3 United States (K Kohler) 7:22.21.

Liam Gorman

Liam Gorman

Liam Gorman is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in rowing