Sanita Puspure makes it a golden Sunday for Ireland in Switzerland

Rower holds off stern challenge from home favourite Gmelin to top European podium

There was just under a second in it at the end, but Sanita Puspure stamped her authority on the European Championships in Lucerne. The world champion single sculler blew away the speculation about whether she could fight off a challenge by the previous holder of that title, Jeannine Gmelin of Switzerland, by dominating the race and winning gold.

Gmelin, to the sound of her fans shouting and ringing cowbells, closed well at the finish to take second. But Puspure had judged it perfectly: she had taken the lead early and opened it to just over a length through the second half. When her rivals came calling she had enough to cross the line with .86 of a second to spare.

Puspure said that it was not quite a case of the race going exactly to plan: “Ah well, there was not much of a race plan. There were a few pointers, but it was all just ‘go - and go faster’, and that was it!”

She did look comfortable crossing the line: “The last few hundred metres I was hanging on, so I wouldn’t call that comfortable. I was praying for the finish line.”


It was her first European title, and surely one of her best races? “I don’t know. I didn’t have the best race yesterday or the day before. Today [the plan]was to go out and do the best I can with the way I felt. To be honest I didn’t expect to win it, so the win was a surprise to myself. Only about halfway through, I thought ‘I can have a shot at this’.”

She had not been feeling on top form, and felt she had not recovered well after the last bloc of preparation.

“I kind of pushed myself quite far towards the end of the week. I didn’t feel quite ‘springy’. I suppose I was confident that not at my best I could still pull it out of the bag.”

She said that in the run-up to the next challenge, the World Cup in Rotterdam in July, she and her coach may look at the next preparation bloc differently so that she has that ‘springiness’ coming into racing.

The fact that women can be mothers in their 30s or beyond and still be top-class performers physically is close to Puspure’s heart. She was “delighted” at the comeback of Mirka Topinkova Knapkova, the Olympic champion of 2012, who at 38 is older than Puspure. She took bronze.

“Yesterday, we had ‘old mammy’ semi-final, which is quite funny!”

And Puspure must be delighted herself? “I’m quite surprised. It will take a while to sink in.”

Fintan and Jacob McCarthy finished fifth in the final of the lightweight double sculls. This was a cracking contest. Germany won gold under severe pressure from Italy, while Belgium took the bronze.

The McCarthy twins, who are just 22 and were appearing in their first major senior event at this level, finished well and were .65 of a second off the fourth place, which was taken by Spain.

Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne finished out their campaign with a fourth placing in their B Final. This ranked them 10th overall. The Irish double were well in contention for second, but Lithuania passed them and almost caught long-time leaders Germany, while Italy touched off Ireland by .17 of a second on the line.

The lightweight double of Denise Walsh and Lydia Heaphy were off the pace in their B Final. They finished sixth, 12th overall at the regatta.

European Championships, Lucerne, Day Two (Irish interest)


Double Sculls - B Final (Places 7 to 12): 1 Germany 6:19.30, 2 Lithuania 6:19.44, 3 Italy 6:22.64, 4 Ireland (P Doyle, R Byrne) 6:22.81

Lightweight Double Sculls - A Final: 1 Germany 6:12.58, 2 Italy 6:13.95, 3 Belgium 6:15.51; 4 Spain 6:18.42, 5 Ireland (F McCarthy, J McCarthy) 6:19.07.


Lightweight Double Sculls - B Final (Places 7 to 12): 1 Netherlands 7:05.12; 6 Ireland (D Walsh, L Heaphy) 7:22.38.

Single Sculls - A Final: 1 Ireland (S Puspure) 7:23.18, 2 Switzerland (J Gmelin) 7:24.04, 3 Czech Republic (M Topinkova Knapkova) 7:24.85; 4 Austria 7:25.03.

Liam Gorman

Liam Gorman

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