Saturday 22 July 2017

O'Donovans face old foes as women make their mark

The O'Donovan brothers
The O'Donovan brothers

Robert Treharne-Jones

The O'Donovan brothers stormed home to an expected win in their heat of the lightweight double sculls at the World Cup regatta in Poland.

But it was the progression of Ireland's openweight women that made its mark, as both Sanita Puspure and Monika Dukarska qualified for the semi-finals of the single sculls.

Lightweight sculler Denise Walsh was first to qualify in the lightweight single sculls where her old rival Patricia Merz beat her to the line by one-and-a-half lengths, with both Switzerland and Ireland going through.

In the lightweight doubles, the Olympic silver medallists had an unexpected challenge from China in their opening heat.

The inexperienced Chinese combination of Sun Man and Fan Junje led through the first 900 metres before the O'Donovans opened up the throttle to take the lead at halfway.

The Skibbereen duo upped the rate to 38 to move away from the field, but China weren't out of the picture, throwing everything at it in the closing stages but failing to prevent a win for Ireland, who take a direct path to tomorrow's final.

There they will meet Pierre Houin and Jeremie Azou, the Olympic champions from France, who won the other heat.

Neither Puspure nor Dukarska qualified directly from their heats, but they made amends in the repechages with both scullers winning their races in style.

Heavyweight coach Sean Casey could not recall Ireland ever having had two women scullers progress to this level together in an event of this status.

"It's good to see them both in that position - it's not a bad start, and it gives us some idea of the way we need to develop over the next three years," he said.

The lightweight men's pair, Mark O'Donovan and Shane O'Driscoll, who are on track for a third successive gold medal in their event, had a straightforward start to their regatta.

With just three entries in their event, they rowed a test race yesterday, in which the results don't count.

Ireland, Great Britain and Brazil will all be racing for real in tomorrow's medal final.

Irish Independent

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