Tokyo 2020 Day 5: Ireland claim rowing bronze while Walker causes boxing upset

Hockey team lose to Germany; McSharry sets Irish record in 200m breaststroke

Ireland’s Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty celebrate with their bronze medals. Photo: Bryan Keane /Inpho

Ireland’s Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty celebrate with their bronze medals. Photo: Bryan Keane /Inpho

 
  • Rowing: Ireland’s women’s four win bronze to take Ireland’s first medal of the Games (read full report here); Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy reach men’s lightweight double sculls final; Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen fifth in women’s double sculls semi-final; Aileen Crowley and Monika Dukarska fifth in women’s pair semi-final; Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne fourth in men’s double sculls B final
  • Boxing: Kurt Walker causes an upset to beat Mirazizber Mirzakhalilov and reach quarter-finals; Aoife O’Rourke loses to Qian Li in women’s middleweight round of 16
  • Hockey: Ireland women’s team lose 4-2 to Germany
  • Judo: Megan Fletcher beaten in round of 32
  • Rugby Sevens: Ireland lose 22-0 to Kenya
  • Sailing: Robert Dickson and Seán Waddilove 11th overall after Races 2, 3 and 4 of men’s 49er
  • Shooting: Derek Burnett 25th after first day of qualifying
  • Cycling: Nicolas Roche finishes 28th in men’s time trial as Primoz Roglic wins gold
  • Badminton: Nhat Nguyen beaten in a deciding set by Tzu-wei Wang
  • Swimming: Mona McSharry finishes second in her women’s 200m breaststroke heat in a new Irish record of 2:25.08 but misses out on semi-finals

Rowing

They left it nervously and perhaps suitably late because they finished incredibly strong, the Irish women’s four of Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty winning themselves magnificent Olympic bronze medals down at Tokyo Sea Forest Waterway on Wednesday morning after a properly thrilling race too.

A first Olympic medal for the Irish in Tokyo, a first for Irish women’s rowing, with the promise of more to come right here quite soon.

Delayed by 24 hours due the typhoon warning, conditions still weren’t ideal, with a tricky tailwind to handle, and in truth the pressure was soon mounting. The Irish did not get a great start, sitting fourth at the halfway mark and then briefly dropping into fifth place behind China, with only Poland behind them at that stage.

Only that seemed to spur them on, as the young quarter dug within themselves and them some to overtake China first, before inside the last 200 metres crawling past Great Britain, who had been in that bronze medal position for much of the 2,000m race.

As expected the hotly fancied Australians took the win, just holding off the Dutch boat which claimed silver, with the Irish women just over five seconds behind in bronze, and just under a second ahead of Britain in the lane next to them, with China also closing fast. Their medal winning performance helps bring Ireland’s outright Olympic tally to 32, still across just six sports, just five years Ireland won a first ever medal in rowing, this also being bronze medal number 13 won in all.

Later, Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy booked their place in Thursday’s lightweight double sculls final, the Cork duo winning their semi-final with a 2021 world best time to boot of 6:05.33.

Fintan Mc Carthy and Paul O’Donovan reached the final of the men’s lightweight double sculls. Photo: Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images
Fintan Mc Carthy and Paul O’Donovan reached the final of the men’s lightweight double sculls. Photo: Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images

They started with typical calm and composure, allowing Italy to get a brief lead on them, before slowly and then decidedly pulling away in the second half of the race, with the Italian boat finishing second just over two seconds behind, the Belgium pair claiming the other final spot in third. Germany won the other semi-final in a slower time of 6:07.33.

It wasn’t to be however for the Irish women’s double sculls duo of Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen, who finished a close fifth in their semi-final, which means a B final awaits them next.

Casey and Cremen certainly put up a great effort, the top trio of Great Britain, France and the Netherlands setting a ferocious pace in part thanks to that tailwind, with only the top three progressing to the medal final. Close to line the Irish women were overtaken by Switzerland and ended up in fifth.

Likewise for Aileen Crowley and Monika Dukarska in their women’s pair semi-final, who also finished fifth in another highly competitive race won by outsiders Greece ahead of Great Britain and Canada with favourites Australia also missing out on the final in fourth.

Also down at Sea Forest Waterway, Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne finished fourth in their double sculls B final earlier in the morning.

Boxing

In a major boxing upset, Ireland’s Kurt Walker blew open the featherweight division in Tokyo’s Kokugikan Arena when he beat the number one seed Mirazizber Mirzakhalilov.

The Irish boxer won on a split decision 4-1 over the Uzbek favourite in one of the upsets of the day.

Kurt Walker celebrates after winning against Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov. Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Kurt Walker celebrates after winning against Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov. Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images

Four of the five judges gave Walker the first round and three of the five the second round. In Olympic boxing that’s a 2-0 lead and everything had to go in favour of the top seed in the final round to make it through.

But Walker stuck to his tactics and held his composure and, although Mirzakhalilov was able to make ground in the third, Walker won out in the end for the biggest upset in the draw so far.

It is probably the most encouraging result so far for the boxing team as Mirzakhalilov was the 2019 World Champion and Asian games champion in 2018.

“Indescribable,” said Walker after the bout. “I just need to get my head level again, relax and recover. I’m buzzing.

“I was just trying to keep faith in my jab and body work. I knew I was fit and I knew I could do it for two rounds anyway and get the two round up. I knew he was going to push on strong so I’m delighted.”

Later in the morning, Aoife O’Rourke came out the wrong side of a close fight against China’s Qian Li in the women’s middleweight division with a unanimous decision but that didn’t tell the full story.

Aoife O’Rourke (red) in action against Li Qian during their women’s middleweight round of 16 fight. Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Aoife O’Rourke (red) in action against Li Qian during their women’s middleweight round of 16 fight. Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images

On her Olympic debut O’Rourke was faced with a tough draw against the 2018 world champion and bronze medal winner from Rio 2016 but she held her own in the first round, landing a few good shots to keep the scores close with the judges going 3-2 in favour of the Chinese boxer.

O’Rourke will probably feel hard done by to have lost the second round after she landed a flurry of punches while Li resorted to a lot of holding to take the sting out of the Irish woman’s attack and again the judges scored it 3-2 for the Chinese.

That left O’Rourke with too much to do in the final round and the Roscommon 24-year-old exits but, with youth on her side, she will have her eye on Paris 2024 and beyond.

Speaking afterwards O’Rourke was disappointed but was already setting her sights to the future.

“It’s not the result I wanted today. I was beaten by the better girl and everything is a learning curve. I’m here in Tokyo. Six years ago, my goal probably would have been for Paris 2024 and I’m lucky enough that I got into this Olympic cycle and I’ll go back to the gym now and work for Paris 2024.

“I’ve been working really hard in training and working with the coaches. We had a good plan going in, I put the pressure on her, hoping that she’d back down a bit, but again she just picked me off. She was the better girl on the day. Everything is a learning curve. You learn every day. I’ll take it on the chin, go back to the gym and keep working.”

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On how the Olympic experience has been for her, she added: “Tokyo has been brilliant. We’ve had an amazing atmosphere.

“Everyone’s been great. I’m going to go back and cheer on everyone now the way they cheered on me today. There’s been a great buzz about the place.”

Swimming

Mona McSharry continued her impressive Olympic debut by swimming a new Irish record in the women’s 200 breaststroke heats but that would not be enough to see her advance to the semi-finals.

Ireland’s Mona McSharry on her way to finishing second in her 200m breaststroke heat. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Ireland’s Mona McSharry on her way to finishing second in her 200m breaststroke heat. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho

The 20-year-old Sligo native clocked 2:25.08 to finish second in her heat, leaving her 20th overall and ending a week which has seen her raise the bar in Irish swimming.

McSharry made Irish history on Monday by becoming just the second Irish swimmer ever to reach an Olympic final, eventually finishing eighth in the 100m breaststroke.

After going out fast in her 200m heat McSharry led most of the way before being pipped by .05 of a second by Kristyna Horska of the Czech Republic.

Badminton

Nhat Nguyen came agonisingly close to a big upset in the men’s singles badminton when he lost 12-21 21-18 12-21 to Tzu-wei Wang of Chinese Taipei.

Nguyen had won his opening match in the three-man pool on Monday which set up a decider against the 10th seed for a place in the knockout stages.

Ireland’s Nhat Nguyen reaches for a shot against Tzu-Wei Wang of Chinese Taipei during men’s singles group play stage. Photo: Dita Alangkara/AP Photo
Ireland’s Nhat Nguyen reaches for a shot against Tzu-Wei Wang of Chinese Taipei during men’s singles group play stage. Photo: Dita Alangkara/AP Photo

After Wang lost the opening set 21-12 he fought back in the second with some sublime shots leading to a 21-18 win which tied the match up.

In the final set Nguyen stuck with his opponent all the way with the scoreline poised at 11-11 at one stage but the 10th seed’s experience won out in the end as Nguyen began to tire.

It means the 21-year-old’s Olympic campaign comes to an end but he leaves with one victory and a set won against one of the world’s best.

Hockey

Ireland 2 Germany 4

Ireland went down 4-2 to Germany in their third Pool A game but their hopes of a quarter-final remain intact with two games remaining.

Germany’s opening goal came after 10 minutes when Ireland lost possession in the German half. A quick overhead up the attacking right channel had the Irish defence turning and chasing.

Germany’s Cecile Pieper celebrates after scoring a goal with Pauline Heinz during their win over Ireland. Photo: Frank Uijlenbroek/Inpho
Germany’s Cecile Pieper celebrates after scoring a goal with Pauline Heinz during their win over Ireland. Photo: Frank Uijlenbroek/Inpho

When Lisa Altenburg ran across the crown of the circle all seemed in control but her hard backhand drive, low to goalkeeper Ayesha McFerran’s left foot, was perfectly placed.

Germany went into the second quarter holding their one goal advantage but Germany struck again, once more from what looked like an innocuous position. The ball was drilled into the circle from the right and Cecile Pieper stepped off her marker to touch it past McFerran for the second on 15 minutes.

It was critical that Ireland shore up their defence as the fourth place in Pool A, which would secure a quarter-final place, could come down to goals.

Germany went into the break 2-0 ahead but when Anna O’Flanagan was yellow carded early in the third quarter, Ireland conceded seven short corners and a penalty.

A drilled ball at the sixth corner was stopped by an Irish foot and Germany referred the decision of another penalty corner. It was changed to a penalty and Altenburg put away her second goal of the day to put her side 3-0 up.

Ireland quickly responded and Elena Tice grabbed one back from the next penalty for 3-1 and then Hannah Mcloughlin added another from a direct slap at the next corner for 3-2.

But Germany halted the come back when Franzisca Hanke added their fourth goal from play, disputed by Ireland, five minutes from the end for 4-2.

That’s how it ended with Ireland facing India on July 30th in a match that could decide if they go through to an Olympic quarter-final.

Judo

In the women’s judo 70kg round of 32 at the Tokyo Budokan, Megan Fletcher lost out at the death to the seeded Michaela Polleres, the 24-year-old from Austria, who delivered Fletcher with a Waza-ari, the second highest score in judo, to win the match.

The 31-year-old Fletcher, whose younger brother Ben will also fight in Tokyo, was duly distraught after the fight, suggesting these Olympics might well be her last competition.

Ireland’s Megan Fletcher (blue) in action against Michaela Pollerees of Austria. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Ireland’s Megan Fletcher (blue) in action against Michaela Pollerees of Austria. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

“It was always going to be a really hard contest, it was a rematch from bronze medal at the World Championships six weeks ago,” said Fletcher, Polleres getting the better of her on that occasion too. “All of our career we have been having head-to-head fights. You have to be in the best position that you can, someone has to win and someone has to lose. It wasn’t meant to be today.

“I tried to close the space and came in high, which is somewhere where she is very strong and she caught me in those last final few seconds. I am very proud of myself, I have had a great career. It is great for our family. It was really hard watching Ben in Rio when I didn’t make it myself. I am very proud of him and will cheer him on tomorrow.”

Rugby Sevens

Ireland 0 Kenya 22

The Irish men’s Rugby Sevens side fell to a heavy 22-0 defeat to Kenya in their 9-10th playoff match in the Tokyo Stadium. It was the final day’s play of Ireland’s Olympic Sevens debut.

It was also Kenya who put paid to Irish chances in the pool phase of the draw with a late try that affected the Irish points enough to hold them back from progressing into the quarter-finals.

Kenya’s Willy Ambaka scores a try against Ireland. Photo: Shuji Kajiyama/AP Photo
Kenya’s Willy Ambaka scores a try against Ireland. Photo: Shuji Kajiyama/AP Photo

This time it was all Kenya who ran in four tries to no response at all from the Irish team. Daniel Taabu, Johnstone Olindi, Willy Ambaka and Jacob Ojee grabbed a try each in the one way match.

Hugo Lennox summed up the mood of the Irish team afterwards.

“That game showed really what we were like through the whole tournament. We were lacking a bit of grit and we never really got going,” he said

“The Olympics is probably the biggest tournament we’re ever going to play in. I feel we’re embarrassed to be honest.

“It’s a poor result but you have to be grateful and honoured to be here. If you had told us 12 months ago we’d be going to the Olympics we would have said that would be a really big ask. France were a big force on the World Series at the time and it was incredible to turn them over on their own patch.”

Sailing

After their winning start in their Olympic debut in the sailing 49er class on Tuesday, Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove had to be content with 12th place in their second of 10 races, before returning to the water later in the day.

The conditions were bright and sunny at Enoshima with good breezes. Strong sailing again from the duo saw them finish the second and third races in 11th and 13th respectively. That leaves them in 11th position overall.

Ireland’s Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove narrowly cross the line to beat the Team GB boat on Wednesday. Photo: Dave Branigan/Inpho
Ireland’s Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove narrowly cross the line to beat the Team GB boat on Wednesday. Photo: Dave Branigan/Inpho

Racing resumes on Thursday as the event catches up after the postponement of two races on Tuesday.

Speaking afterwards, Dickson said: “It was a lot windier and wavier, pretty nice conditions and pretty enjoyable.” Waddilove agreed, adding, “We’re not coming in confused or deflated. We know what we need to change for the next day which are some simple things.”

Cycling

Nicolas Roche finished in 28th in the men’s time trial as Primoz Roglic claimed Slovenia’s first-ever Olympic cycling gold medal with a perfectly-executed ride.

Nicolas Roche rides during the men’s individual time trial. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images
Nicolas Roche rides during the men’s individual time trial. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Roche came home in a time of 1:01:23.13 to finish 6:18.94 behind Roglic.

The Irishman was amongst the early starters tasked with laying down a marker for the field of 35 riders to measure themselves against. The 37-year-old paced his effort well and finished strong through to the finish on Fuji International Speedway.

“That was one tough day,” Roche said at the finish line. “Definitely left it all on the road but obviously against a lot of the top of the world specialists I’m a lot slower than most of them, but I gave it 100 per cent. I thank the staff and Cycling Ireland and the Olympic team for their commitment behind me for these Games, and I hope I gave everything I could. It’s been an amazing experience to get my fourth Games, I’m extremely proud.”

The 31-year-old former international ski jumper Roglic flew around the 44.1km route at the Fuji Speedway in 55:04 to better the bronze medal of team mate Tadej Pogacar in Saturday’s road race.

Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, who had looked set to quit the sport this year, repeated his silver medal from the Rio Games in 2016, finishing one minute and one second behind Roglic. Former time trial world champion Rohan Dennis of Australia was third, a further two seconds slower, with pre-race favourite Filippo Ganna a disappointing fifth.

Shooting

Derek Burnett is in 25th position after the first day of qualifying in the men’s trap shooting competition.

In what is his fifth Olympic Games, Burnett started off slow with a score of 22 but improved with 24 in the next two rounds, adding up to a total of 70.

Derek Burnett during qualifying for the men’s trap shooting. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Derek Burnett during qualifying for the men’s trap shooting. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Kuwait’s Abdulrahman Al Faihan leads with 74 on a count back ahead ofThailand’s Savate Sresthaporn and Italy’s Mauro de Filippis with the last two qualifying rounds set for Thursday. After that the top six will qualify for the final.

“I had three misses which is a little hard to come back from, pushing the whole time to make up the deficit,” Burnett told RTÉ Sport afterwards.

“I got two 24s then, so while it is decent, the level that’s here is very high so it is hard to keep up.”

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