Last Friday was a remarkable day for Rowing Ireland as two of the three Irish crews competing at the 2017 World Rowing Championships in Sarasota took Gold.
Skibbereen’s Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan have become World Champions of the lightweight men’s pair, following a stellar performance in the final. The Skibbereen duo remain unbeaten this season with three World Cup wins and a European Championships win already accomplished in 2017. They also proved to be the best in the heats earlier in the week. O’Donovan and O’Driscoll maintained an incredible stroke rate throughout Friday’s race, the pace proving too much for the opposing crews none of whom ever looked as though they may deny the Irish of the Gold medal they had set out to claim. Their blistering stroke rate never dropped below 43 strokes per minute and the crew finished excellently, with Italy taking silver and Brazil becoming the bronze medallists.
Speaking to FISA (the World Rowing federation) Mark O’Donovan said, “We started and were wrecked. It’s been a really long journey to get here so we are absolutely delighted to be able to take the win. Thanks to everyone that supported us. I think the season has really pushed us to do well.”
Immediately afterwards, Paul O’Donovan stepped up to successfully defend his title in the lightweight men’s single sculls, once again being crowned World Champion. It had been incredibly tight racing throughout this boat category in the lead up to this final and there was no doubt that the race would be close. O’Donovan started strongly but it was at the 1000 metre mark that the Skibbereen sculler made his move, producing a huge push to move forward into a substantial lead which had grown to a gap of three and a half seconds as he crossed the line. He finished just five seconds outside of a World Best time.
The pressure was then on Skibbereen club mate Denise Walsh who raced in the A Final of the lightweight women’s single sculls just minutes after O’Donovan. Unfortunately Walsh finished outside the medals coming in sixth, but a sixth-in-the-world finish caps off a fantastic 2017 season for her. She already has a European and World Cup silver to her name this year, and the experience gained from her first World Championships final will stand to her massively going forward.
Commenting on the results, Rowing Ireland CEO Hamish Adams said, “We are very proud of not only our fantastic performances at the World Championships but also all the excellence we are delivering across our sport from education to governance. We aspire to be the best we can be and this success endorses all the hard work and sacrifices that so many in our sport are making.”