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Paul O'Donovan & Fintan McCarthy Take Ireland's First Ever Gold Medal in Rowing

29th July 2021
Fintan McCarthy and Paul O'Donovan celebrate after winning gold.
Fintan McCarthy and Paul O'Donovan celebrate after winning gold. Photo by Credit: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Cork pair Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy have won a historic Olympic gold rowing medal for Ireland in Tokyo.

The Irish favourites dominated their closest German challengers, and the rest of the lightweight men's double sculls field, to win in a time of six minutes and six seconds.

It marks Ireland's second medal of the Games, after bronze for the women's rowing four, and completes their own set of medals — with Paul adding gold to his silver medal from Rio, won alongside his brother Gary.

It makes the Skibbereen pair Ireland's only seventh gold medal winners in the history of Irish sport.

The Irish crew maintained a steady pace throughout, reaching the 500m mark in third, behind Germany and Italy, but by halfway it was clear it would be Ireland v Germany for gold.

It's Gold! A screenshot of the finish shows Ireland as clear winners in the men's double sculls in TokyoIt's Gold! A screenshot of the finish shows Ireland as clear winners in the men's double sculls in Tokyo

O'Donovan and McCarthy edged ahead by 1,500m and they wore out the Germans in the sprint to the line, holding off the nearest challenges by 0.86 seconds, with Italy a further seven seconds back in third.

Speaking after the race, O’Donovan said: “The Germans and Italians always have a quick start, so for the first time we had a quick start as well, not for lack of effort.

“It was a bit of a surprise that it paid off and we weren’t totally dropped in the first 500m, so that was good. And then we put the heads down and ploughed on so it was good.”

McCarthy added: “It feels pretty good. We can’t complain! We had a really good race — but a tough one. The Germans were flying so it was hard. I was really excited when we first crossed the line and there was a bit of relief as well.

“We have had a good time all week, so we are a bit sad that it is all over. We hadn’t had too much time to think about it but it feels pretty good and hopefully it will be that way for a while.”

Meanwhile, in the lightweight women’s double sculls the Irish crew performed outstandingly to finish second in their B Final with a time of 6:49.90.

This resulted in an eighth overall final standing — pushing winners of the B Final, Switzerland, to the line and crossing just 0.74 seconds after them.

Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in May, and throughout the Olympic Regatta have produced top-class performances, which bodes well for the Paris Olympic cycle.

The women’s pair of Monika Dukarska and Aileen Crowley finished fifth in their B Final with 7:02.22, in what was an extremely competitive field, resulting in an 11th place finish overall.

They started strong, putting themselves right in the mix, in a grueling battle with Romania and USA which ensued for the remainder of the race. The Killorglin pair are part of the emerging strong squad of female rowers in Ireland from which the Olympic bronze medal-winning crew was selected.

In the final race of the day for Ireland’s rowers, there was more disappointment for Sanita Puspure in the women's single sculls. The two-time world champion never kept the pace in her semi-final as she finished fifth, missing out on a place in the A final.

Published in Rowing
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