Thursday 8 December 2016

O'Donovan fulfils Rio vow to return as world champion

Rowing

Cathal Dennehy

Published 29/08/2016 | 02:30

Paul O'Donovan of Ireland celebrates after winning the Lightweight Men's Single Sculls Final at the 2016 World Rowing Championships. Photo: Sportsfile
Paul O'Donovan of Ireland celebrates after winning the Lightweight Men's Single Sculls Final at the 2016 World Rowing Championships. Photo: Sportsfile
Paul O'Donovan of Ireland celebrates after winning the Lightweight Mens Single Sculls Final/Lightweight Mens Pair Final at the 2016 World Rowing Championships. Photo: Sportsfile

Only a matter of hours after winning an Olympic silver medal earlier this month, Paul O'Donovan sat with friends in a bar in Rio de Janeiro and made a promise.

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At the World Rowing Championships later in the month, he would win the lightweight single sculls title by open water - a bold prediction, but one made with the newfound swagger of an Olympic medallist.

On Saturday morning in Rotterdam the 22-year-old made good on his word, obliterating his rivals over the latter half of the men's A final, coming home with four seconds to spare over runner-up Peter Galambos of Hungary.

It came just 16 days after he won silver in the double sculls at the Olympics alongside his brother Gary, who cheered him to gold alongside a large contingent of family and friends from Skibbereen.

O'Donovan started the race conservatively, passing the 500m mark in fifth, but by halfway he was vying for the lead with Slovenia's Rajko Hrvat. It was then that the Cork man kicked into overdrive.

O'Donovan took command of the race in the third quarter, building an advantage that extended with every stroke to the finish, where he became just the fourth Irish sculler to win a gold medal in an A final at the World Championships.

"At the 500-metre to go mark I remembered I told my friends when I was in Rio that I would win here by open water, so I thought I should keep my promise," he said. "The first stroke was bad, but then the second one was good so I went from there. I was feeling pretty good in the warm-up, so I was confident."

The O'Donovan brothers hail from just outside Skibbereen in West Cork, and Paul is promising a seismic celebration when they return home later tonight.

"It'll be massive, I tell ya - put an extension on to the town for the night," he told Cork's 96FM. "We'll take it as it comes. It'll all be a bit of craic and hopefully everyone will enjoy it and there'll be some kids that might take away something for future years, to get a bit of inspiration."

For weeks they have been watching their feats from afar, but this evening the people of Skibbereen get to greet their proudest sons in the flesh. Home are the heroes.

Irish Independent

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