#Rowing: The Afloat Rower of the Year 2018 is Sanita Puspure. The Old Collegians competitor proved herself the best single sculler in the world. She took silver at the World Cup regattas in Belgrade and Lucerne, running the defending champion, Jeannine Gmelin of Switzerland, extremely close (.23 of a second) in the Lucerne final.
Working with coach Dave McKenzie McGowan and high performance director Antonio Maurogiovanni, who set a very heavy training schedule, Puspure decided to miss the European Championships so that she could concentrate on the World Championships in Plovdiv in Bulgaria in September. She won her heat and semi-final, and then overcame bobbly conditions in the final. She established a clearwater lead. Gmelin came back at her in the third quarter; Puspure was not for catching. She won by two lengths of clear water.
The win was a twin highlight at the end of a wonderful year. The O’Donovan brothers, Gary and Paul, won the lightweight double sculls gold in Plovdiv, making history as the first Ireland crew to take World Championship gold in an Olympic boat. They overcame terrible conditions and a poor lane draw to win in the quarter-final. This was succeeded by a semi-final in which they looked tired and could only take third. The final saw them in the unfavoured lane six for the final.
In a stirring race, the Skibbereen men saw off Italy. They would describe it as the best race they had ever rowed. They were outstanding in their steadiness, and over the second, third and fourth quarters they were the fastest crew. They took over the lead from Italy between 1200 and 1500 metres and rebuffed the charge by the men in blue to win by three-quarters of a length.
In a first for a women’s sweep crew from this island in an Olympic boat, Aifric Keogh and Emily Hegarty, the Ireland women’s pair, also reached an A Final at the World Championships. The World Under-23 Championships were also laden with success, with four A Finalists, gold for Shane Mulvaney and David O’Malley in the lightweight pair and silver for Miles Taylor, Niall Beggan, Ryan Ballantine and Andrew Goff in the lightweight quadruple.
Come the Fisa World Rowing Awards, Dominic Casey was honoured as the coach of the year.
In a season of success, Sanita Puspure is the Afloat Rower of the Year.
Afloat Rower of the Month awards: The judging panel is made up of Liam Gorman, rowing correspondent of The Irish Times, and David O'Brien, editor of Afloat magazine. Monthly awards for achievements during the year appeared on afloat.ie.