Stakes high for Sanita Puspure at Aiguebelette
Restriction of Olympic qualifiers ‘back door’ route means added pressure in World Championships
Sanita Puspure: says she is “100 per cent confident” her coach Don McLachlan has judged her programme so that she will peak at Aiguebelette. Photograph: William Cherry/Presseye/Inpho
The methods of spreading the sport have included increasing female participation by extending the Olympic qualification mark at Aiguebelette from nine to 11 boats in, among others, the women’s double and lightweight double, a very welcome change for Ireland’s crews of Helen Hannigan and Lisa Dilleen and Claire Lambe and Sinéad Jennings.
The “back door” of the Olympic Qualifiers in 2016 has been severely restricted: should neither the women’s single (Sanita Puspure) nor the lightweight women’s double qualify in Aiguebelette, then only one of the two can find their way to Rio through next year’s Olympic qualifiers.
Puspure’s job is the harder one, as just the top nine (of an entry of 35 countries) will gain direct qualification. And there is depth there: at the World Cup in Lucerne in July, Puspure finished second in the B Final, eighth overall – well ahead of Germany (13th), Russia (15th) and Britain (16th).
Puspure knows the scale of her task – big powers like China and Canada who were not at Lucerne will be in Aiguebelette – but remains positive.
After a stellar 2014 which featured a bronze medal at the European Championships and fourth place at the World Championships, she has struggled this season, not helped by a rib injury and illness.
There are 33 entries for the lightweight men’s double sculls, nine of which will not even make the quarter finals. Ireland’s Gary and Paul O’Donovan hope to make the top 11, which would qualify their boat for Rio.
The Ireland entry includes a women’s pair, but they will not compete unless there is illness or injury in the four.
The firm intention is to have a pair, an Olympic boat, for next season.