Sanita Puspure made an excellent start to her campaign to book a place in Rio de Janeiro as she won her heat of the single sculls at the Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Puspure led for the entire race, with double Olympic gold medallist Ekaterina Karsten exerting pressure in the second 1,000 metres. Puspure upped her speed and beat the Belarussian by half a second, with Ukraine's Nataliya Dovgodko took the third semi-final place.
“It was a good opening salvo by Sanita. Nice and solid, no big fireworks,” said Ireland coach Don McLachlan.
The competition is estimable. Emma Twigg, the world champion of 2014 who took a year out in 2015, won the third heat in seven minutes 31.1 seconds – over seven seconds faster than Puspure's 7:38.55. Fie-Udby Erichsen, the silver medallist in London, took the second heat in 7:35.43.
The good news for the contenders is that come Tuesday’s final there will be four Rio places available, one more than originally planned. A place set aside for invitations by the tripartite commission has not been used. These places allow countries with small Olympic delegations to be represented.
McLachlan said the extra place would not change the preparation “but it makes the odds a bit better”. Six women will compete in Tuesday’s final.