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Sanita Puspure second fastest in heats at World Championships

Irish rower looks on course to make final through repechage route

Ireland’s Sanita Puspure had the second fastest time in the heats of the single sculls at the World Rowing Championships in Florida. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Sanita Puspure gave the favourite for gold a real test in the steaming temperatures of Florida on Monday but her second place in her heat means she will have to compete in a repechage of the single sculls at the World Rowing Championships.

Jeannine Gmelin of Switzerland came into the championships on a high after winning every race she competed in this season, including winning gold on home water at the World Cup regatta in Lucerne in July. The heat in Sarasota-Bradenton offered just one direct qualification place for the semi-finals, and she raced hard from the start. Only Puspure stayed in touch, but Gmelin held a clearwater lead over the Ireland sculler through the middle of the race.

Puspure has good finishing speed, and closed hard through the last 300 metres. She gained an overlap on the Swiss, but could not quite head her.

The results offered real hope for Puspure – this was by far the fastest heat, and she had the second best time of the 22 competitors in the four heats.

The 35-year-old has had a challenging year. She had to sit out competition at the European Championships through illness, and twice in the season had to travel back to her native Latvia for family bereavements.

The Ireland women’s pair of Aifric Keogh and Aileen Crowley finished third of five in their heat, ahead of Italy and China. The race was won by Megan Kalmoe and Tracy Eisser of the United States. Their time put the Irish seventh overall – which suggests that this new crew can hold some hope of making a World Championship final.

Ireland will again be in action on Tuesday. The men’s pair of Patrick Boomer and Fionnan McQuillan-Tolan compete in a repechage at 5.24pm Irish time.