Tokyo 2020 Day 2: Emmet Brennan bows out while Irish rowers reach semi-finals

Liam Jegou progresses in canoe slalom C1; Mona McSharry advances in 100m breaststroke

Ireland’s Emmet Brennan reacts after his light heavyweight loss to Dilshod Ruzmetov at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Ireland’s Emmet Brennan reacts after his light heavyweight loss to Dilshod Ruzmetov at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

 
  • Rowing: Sanita Puspure powers to semi-final of women’s singles sculls; Aileen Crowley and Monika Dukarska book women’s pair semi-final slot; Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen also reach semi-finals of women’s lightweight double sculls; Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne out of sync in men’s doubles semi-finals
  • Gymnastics: Meg Ryan scores 47.199 in women’s all-around but misses out on semi-finals
  • Canoe Slalom: Liam Jegou improves on second run to reach semi-finals
  • Sailing: Annalise Murphy finishes 35th in Race 1 and 12th in Race 2 of women’s laser radial
  • Dressage: Heike Holstein scores 68.432% in Grand Prix Group D but fails to qualify for final
  • Swimming: Mona McSharry qualifies for semi-finals in women’s 100m breaststroke heat; Danielle Hill misses out on 100m backstroke semi-finals
  • Boxing: Emmet Brennan loses out to Dilshod Ruzmetov in men’s light heavyweight division

Boxing

A brave effort from an injured Emmet Brennan wasn’t enough to send the 30-year-old Dubliner into the next round of the men’s light heavyweight division in Tokyo’s Kokugikan Arena.

In the last bout of the evening Brennan went out by unanimous decision to one of the hottest tickets in the draw, Uzbek boxer Dilshod Ruzmetov, the 2019 World Championship silver medalist and current Asian champion.

Brennan understood the sweep of his challenge and although he was carrying a rib injury he had never thought of not taking part in the biggest bout of his career.

“You’re not going to pull out of it. You could have a broken arm and you’re not pulling out of the Olympic Games.” said Brennan, who was not holding his injury up as an excuse although perhaps as an influence in his performance.

Brennan lost the first round to the southpaw 10-9 on all five judge’s cards but gained some ground in the second round with two of the five judges siding with the Irishman.

A messy bout, where Ruzmetov preferred to tie up than fight in close, worked well in his favour as he was the one scoring from distance both to the body and head.

“It was tough. I was off the pace in the first round. He caught me with a body shot at the end of the first, badly, and I’d already had a rib injury before I got in. I tried to pick it up in the second round,” said Brennan.

“I did pick it up but I was too far off the pace, he was too sharp. I gave an effort but any time I got on the inside, he spoiled which was smart on his side. He did what he had to do to win. I’ve no complaints with that.”

Three of the judges marked Ruzmetov the 30-27 winner and the two others had him win 29-28. Brennan knew after losing the first two rounds that he had to stop the fight, which against such sharp opposition was highly unlikely. Still, the last year and the Olympic bout will be something to savour, although not so soon after defeat.

“I definitely enjoyed it but that has put a sour taste on it,” said Brennan. “It will probably be three, four, five months before I look on it and enjoy the experience.

“It’s just unfortunate, you’re in the biggest moment of your life and your body is giving up on you. But it’s stuff that you have to overcome and I did. I believed I was going to overcome it.

“I have a strong mental game and I thought no matter what he was going to throw at me I’d come out the other side.”

Rowing

This was her bogey race. Sanita Puspure failed to navigate the quarter-finals of the women’s single sculls in both London 2012 and Rio 2016, only this time it proved clear and straight water, the Irish rower winning her way through to the semi-finals with room to spare.

Sanita Puspure during her women’s singles sculls quarter-final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Sanita Puspure during her women’s singles sculls quarter-final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Phew. Under some pressure - Puspure admitted to that afterwards - she started somewhat cautiously, sitting in third after 500m, before gently and then decisively hitting the front, winning in 7:58.30, just over a second clear of the American Kara Kohler.

There was similar satisfaction for Aileen Crowley and Monika Dukarska, in the women’s pair repechage. With the top-three making the semi-finals, they managed an impressive third, behind Greece and the USA, showing plenty of improvement on the fifth place in Saturday’s heat, leaving China a long way back in fourth.

Likewise with Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen in their repechage of the women’s lightweight double sculls, their third place also seeing them into the semi-finals, finishing within a second and a half of the Swiss and Russian boats.

The only Irish disappointment of the session came just before the end, in the proper heat of 12:40 just after midday, when Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne finished sixth and last in their men’s doubles semi-final, a full 29 seconds behind winners France, further evidence perhaps that their form and rhythm in Tokyo has somehow deserted them.

Conditions were again scorching down at Tokyo Sea Forest Waterway and the rowers are afforded plenty of time to recover before coming through the mixed-zone. Puspure appeared relaxed and, in truth, relieved that her quarter-final bogey was over, the double World and European Champion now eying up Thursday’s rescheduled semi-finals after all of the rowing on Monday and Tuesday was wiped because of a Typhoon warning. Both Crowley and Dukarska and Casey and Cremen will race in their semi-finals on Wednesday.

“Yeah, my performance is going to go up with every race, so I’m confident in the programme that we did in the last month,” Puspure said. “I won the quarter-final, it wasn’t easy but I got it done, so hopefully I can feel more confident now for the semi-final. Yeah, technical execution could have been a little bit better, but I still have some time to work on it again, on Tuesday, if the water should be fine.”

Asked about that pressure of being one of the medal favourites, she added: “I am able to relax, I’ve a few more days off now, so it’s just taking one day at a time, doing the training, focus on the details and stuff. So, yeah. There is a little amount of pressure, obviously, it’s not too bad.

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“Well this is my first semi-final, so I don’t think it’s going to get easier now. So two more very important races ahead. We’ve come a long way and it’s been exciting to see the whole team perform well, and now the women’s four are already in the final, they had an awesome race yesterday, and I’m quite excited to see what they can do on final. So it’s really good and good to be part of such a successful team, it’s exciting.”

There was a reminder in the second quarter-final of what may lie ahead in the final, should Puspure progress. Hanna Prakatsen, representing the Russian Olympic Committee (Russia being “banned” from the Olympics, remember) won her quarter-final in 7:49.64, nine seconds faster.

Crowley and Dukarska were equally satisfied. “It was a case of getting the job done and that’s what we did, well executed,” said Crowley. “This is a really changeable course. We have had two races in two different conditions which is kind of reassuring. I mean they can change to something different again but we have two conditions under our belt now. So if it is something the same (in the semi-final) then we have done a race in those conditions. We have covered more of our bases with the two different types of races. So we are pretty happy with that.”

Dukarska added: “We are still in the game. Conditions changed altogether. There was no tail wind. It was all head wind. But we were aware of that, so we adjusted things and focussed again on the start because it is something that didn’t go according to plan yesterday and we executed that much better.”

Casey spoke similarly after the women’s lightweight double: “We had a good race. I suppose it started off with a headwind so it was just about getting into a good rhythm and I felt we had a good start, build into a good rhythm and just built from there. We’re happy enough, another race down and another to go.”

Swimming

There was good news for Swim Ireland and Mona McSharry, who qualified for the semi-finals of the women’s 100m breaststroke at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre.

Ireland’s Mona McSharry in heat five of the women’s 100m breaststroke at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre on the second day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Ireland’s Mona McSharry in heat five of the women’s 100m breaststroke at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre on the second day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire

The Sligo 20-year-old came third in her heat in a time of 1:06.39, almost two seconds behind the South African winner Tatjana Shoenmaker.

The swim was some fractions of a second outside her Irish record of 1:06.29 set in the Irish National Team Trials earlier this year but enough to get her into the fast 16 swimmers in her first time at an Olympic Games.

Danielle Hill didn’t make it through in heat three of the 100m backstroke. The 21-year-old Newtonabbey swimmer’s time of 1:00.86 seconds was off her best and outside the top 16 swims over the six heats. She placed third in her race, 0.8 of a second behind the Finnland winner Mimosa Jallow.

Canoe Slalom

Liam Jegou has reached the semi-finals of the C1 slalom after improving on his second run at the Sea Forest Waterway.

Ireland’s Liam Jegou during his second run. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Ireland’s Liam Jegou during his second run. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

The 25-year-old was under pressure after a disappointing first run which saw him penalised 50 seconds for missing the 19th gate, putting him in last place with one run to go.

However, he stepped up to the mark the second time around, finishing in a time of 104.40 which included a two-second penalty and was enough to see him finish in 11th place and reach Monday’s semi-final, beginning at 6am.

There will be far less margin for error on Monday with only one run for each competitor before the final takes place at 7.45am.

“It’s a massive relief. I felt good this morning and my run was going perfectly to plan but then towards the end I completely lost my edge, fell in and missed the gate,” Jegou said afterwards.

“Getting ready for that second run was very difficult, second runs are really nerve-racking, you’re playing your whole season, or the past five years, on that run so it was definitely a nervous moment on the starting blocks but I’m glad I put down a good enough run. I’m relieved I’m through to the semi-finals and I can fight another day.

“I’m confident I’m in shape, I feel great technically. I just need to free myself a bit more. Tomorrow is a new day and semi-finals are a different ball game to heats. You have to attack a lot more and I feel less nervous in those situations and I can really let go and try to put down the best run I can do.

“We’re not used to racing in conditions this warm. I’ve been here for three weeks and we’ve adapted to it. At the end of the day it’s the same for everybody.

“What a journey. It’s been such a long time since I qualified and I guess that added to the pressure scenario at the start of the day. It’s the Olympics but it feels like a different kind of Olympics. That extra year has been really long for everyone and everyone is excited to compete here. I’m glad I can say I’m an Olympian now - it’s official and I’m looking forward to more tomorrow.”

Sailing

Annalise Murphy made a slow start to the women’s laser radial at Enoshima, finishing 35th in the first race before a lack of wind postponed the second race.

Annalise Murphy during the women’s laser radial. Photo: Dave Branigan/Inpho
Annalise Murphy during the women’s laser radial. Photo: Dave Branigan/Inpho

When it eventually got going again 2016 silver medalist Murphy took 12th in the second race on what was a tough day for all boats.

The laser radial is made up of 10 races in total, with points awarded based on finishing position. The top 10 at the end of the 10 races – those with the lowest points totals – qualify for the medal race.

The third race will begin on Monday at 6.35am and is followed by the fourth race.

“I’m relieved to get the first day out of the way, disappointed it didn’t go as I wanted it to,” Murphy said afterwards.

“I did exactly what I didn’t want to in the first race, had a bad race, went the wrong way, didn’t stick with my plan, got caught up in a bit of an incident with another boat. I dealt badly with that by freaking out and doing the wrong thing. I had a slightly better second race, I was gaining around the race course rather than trying to do damage control which was good. I’m glad the first day is done and I’m looking forward to moving up from here – no more mistakes.”

Gymnastics

Irish teenager Meg Ryan didn’t make it to the final of the women’s all-around after she finished 25th in her subdivision at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre.

Ireland’s Megan Ryan competing on the beam. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Ireland’s Megan Ryan competing on the beam. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho

The 19-year-old from Cork scored an overall 47.199 with Russian Olympic Committee’s Angelina Melnikova coming out on top with 57.132.

Ryan was proud of her performance, scoring 10.466 on the balance beam, 12.000 on the floor, 13.200 on the vault and 11.533 on the uneven bars.

“I’m feeling great!” she said afterwards. “To officially be an Olympian is just amazing, it’s surreal. It’s been an amazing experience overall, just looking around and taking it all in. I knew that no matter what happens I was just going to try and enjoy it and be happy with the fact that this is the Olympics and I am an Olympian!”

The senior Irish gymnast, who delivered Ireland’s first World Cup podium finish at the 2019 World Challenge Cup in Turkey winning silver on uneven bars, admitted that there were some nerves in her first routine.

“Definitely a bit of nerves for me at the start, I think the beam is always a shaky one to start on anyway. In my own head, a silly mistake was made and it’s something that wouldn’t normally happen. I know these things happen on the day and especially when you’re nervous. I was a bit nervous and shaky. I got into it though, and after that I tried to put it behind me and focus on the rest and I think I did a good job with that and I was happy with the rest of the performance.”

Dressage

Heike Holstein and her mare Sambuca finished with a score of 68.432% in Group D of the dressage grand prix, missing out on a place in Wednesday’s individual final.

Heike Holstein rides Sambuca during the dressage individual grand prix. Photo: Libby Law/Inpho
Heike Holstein rides Sambuca during the dressage individual grand prix. Photo: Libby Law/Inpho

Now a four-time Olympian, Holstein partnered her home-bred 12-year-old through her Olympic debut, finishing sixth of 10 in her group. Sambuca produced a striking display under the setting sun and in humid conditions, which have proved to be difficult factors for all horse and rider combinations.

The top two combinations from each group, including the six next best, will qualify for the grand prix freestyle individual final.

Speaking after their performance, Holstein said: “I was really happy with her, she went into the ring and really concentrated. We had a few little errors that were my fault, in the first medium trot I had her back a bit too much. I was really happy with the passage and the piaffe has improved a lot, she was really relaxed in the walk and the changes were good. I timed the warm-up just right, I practiced it yesterday at the same time and I had more time today so I did less with her before I went in. She wasn’t exhausted but wasn’t too fresh. I was happy with most of it.

“I am really proud of her. When she was a little foal I never thought that we would get this far, it is a long road and lots of things can happen. In 2019 I finally thought, this might happen!”

The Irish equestrian athletes are wearing yellow ribbons in commemoration of the loss of a highly talented young Irish athlete, Tiggy Hancock, in June. Also decorating Holstein’s lapel was a pin designed by Tiggy’s mother specifically for the event.

When asked about the ribbon and pin, Heike said: “Tiggy is at the Olympics in Tokyo and we are very proud to wear this for her.”

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