Puspure seals place at Games

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ROWING:IT DID not happen as she expected, but she made it happen. Sanita Puspure gave Irish rowing a terrific lift when she finished fourth in the single sculls final at the Olympic qualifier in Lucerne in Switzerland and gave Ireland a rowing presence at London 2012.

“I still can’t believe I did it,” Puspure (30) said as she came off the water. She had to take out two other finalists to finish in the top four and she knew she could beat Kaisa Pajusalu of Estonia. But the surprise was she had relegated Iva Obradovic of Serbia to fifth, when it was Genevra Stone of the United States who was the target.

“Yes, I was hoping to pass the United States and Estonia,’ she told The Irish Times. Obradovic had been outstanding at the World Cup in Belgrade earlier this month and had also posted better times than Puspure at this regatta. Puspure got a good start but as the race developed Australia’s Kim Crow and Denmark’s Fie Udby Erichsen made certain of the top two places. And Stone was not budging out of third. Puspure made the crucial push after half way and left Pajusala and Obradovic behind.

As her husband and children gathered around her, she was able to tell an interviewer from Worldrowing.comthat the last time Ireland had a woman rower at the Olympic Games was in 1980 (Frances Cryan finished seventh in the single scull).

Puspure has been a familiar presence at the National Rowing Centre in Farran Wood, Co Cork, in recent years. She has been a full-time rower since she moved early last year from Dublin to Ballincollig, and it has coincided with good results. Born in Riga, she had an estimable set of achievements at underage level for Latvia, with a bronze medal in the single at the World under-23 Championships in 2003 and a gold in the double scull at the World Student Games in 2004. She moved to Ireland in 2006 and by early 2008 was impressing with Commercial, and then with Old Collegians.

Her breakthrough years were 2009 and ’11. In 2009 she won the senior single sculls title at the Irish Championships (beating Sinead Jennings). Her rival for supremacy in women’s rowing fast became junior athlete Lisa Dilleen, who is 10 years younger than her.

Puspure represented Ireland in World Cup 2010, but did not receive her passport, which allowed her to compete at the World Championships, until 2011. Her partnership in the double scull with Dilleen yielded a fifth place in the World Cup in Munich in May. However, the could only finish 12th at the World Championships in Bled in September when a top-eight place would have qualified the boat for London. Dilleen has not been available this year through illness. Back in the single again Puspure was fifth at the World Cup in Belgrade three weeks ago and became Ireland’s best – and, when the lightweight double bowed out in the qualifier, only – hope of having a rowing presence at London 2012.

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