Stakes high for Sanita Puspure at Aiguebelette

Restriction of Olympic qualifiers ‘back door’ route means added pressure in World Championships

The world governing body, Fisa, has pushed hard to make rowing a truly universal sport, and the entry for the World Championships, which begin on Sunday, August 30th, shows they have had some success. A record 1,300 athletes from 77 countries will compete at Aiguebelette.

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.

Harder one

But another measure adopted could be problematic for Ireland.

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.

Have fun

But it’s the end of the season that will matter and she is “100 per cent confident” that her coach Don McLachlan has judged her programme so that she will peak at Aiguebelette. The aim is to reach the A Final (top six) “and then we will have fun; when you have fun you never know what will come out of it”.

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.

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