Team Ireland at Tokyo 2020: Sanita Puspure wins her heat in dominant display

Shane Ryan will not start in the men’s 100m backstroke due to a persistent shoulder pain

Twice world champion Sanita Puspure dominated the first race in her Olympic quest to win the gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics single sculls.

The 39-year-old rower, who is also a double European Champion in 2018 and 2019, won her opening heat, sending a message that her form is coming good just when she had hoped, winning her heat in 7:46.08.

Second placed was Mexico's Kenia Lechuga. The closest boat in the second heat of the day at the Sea Forest waterway came in 8.13 seconds behind Puspure.

“It was okay. It was good to get the first race done and dusted,” said Puspure. “The start could have been better but we will work on it. It wasn’t too hard today, but it is going to get harder as it goes along. If I was third it wouldn’t make much difference.


“It was a comfortable win so it was good to get a good race out of the way. Every race I do just brings my psychology up a little bit as well.”

The only boats Puspure was slower than over the six heats was New Zealand's Emma Twigg, Sophie Souwer from the Netherlands, Britain's Victoria Thornley and Austria's Magdalena Lobnig, although between the races the conditions kept switching from a cross headwind to a tail headwind.

“You can see the flags,” added Puspure. “It swings around a lot, so for our race I think it was a cross and a head wind. But it changes rapidly. So, I think you just have to go with it and adapt as you go.”

Twigg came home in the fastest time of the day in 7:35.22, winning her race by almost five seconds and more than 10 seconds better than the Irish rower. Twigg was fourth in Rio, fourth in London and ninth in Beijing.

In fifth place in Puspure's race was Kathleen Noble, a Ugandan athlete with parents from Ireland. She came in fifth place more than 35 seconds behind the Irish winner.

“I heard that,” said Puspure. “My coach told me. I didn’t get a chance to chat with her. When you are quite near to a race you don’t have time to be doing that.”

Ireland's Ronan Doyle and Philip Byrne ended their first race in a disappointing fourth place in the men's double sculls. Their time of 6:14.40 was more than three seconds slower than the winning Polish boat. They will now go into a repechage.

In swimming Shane Ryan will not start in the men's 100m backstroke due to a persistent shoulder pain that is consistent with that particular stroke. The decision was made in consultation with the Team Ireland swimming and medical staff in Tokyo.

The positive news for Ryan is that he is expected to participate in the men’s 100m butterfly and the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay team.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times