Heartbreak for Puspure as Ireland finish sixth in Worlds medal table
Ireland's top woman sculler Sanita Puspure moved right back into the premier division at the World Championships in Florida yesterday, but was cruelly denied a medal by just 0.35 of a second.
Throughout the week the Old Collegians sculler looked to have recovered some of her old form after a disappointing Rio Olympics where she finished down the rankings in 13th place.
Fifth place at the first World Cup regatta of the season in Belgrade was a promising start, but a virus put her out of the European Championships three weeks later in the Czech Republic.
As the World Cup season progressed so Puspure's finishing positions slipped down the rankings, with ninth place at the Swiss regatta in Lucerne, so often the form guide to the Worlds, sounding warning bells for Florida.
Second place in her heat earlier in the week meant an extra race in the repechages but another creditable second in Friday's semi-finals left her poised for success.
Austria's Magdalena Lobnig, who has consistently outranked Puspure through the 2017 season, took the early lead in yesterday's final before Jeannine Gmelin of Switzerland overhauled the pack at halfway.
As the second half opened up Puspure beat off Dutch sculler Lisa Scheenard to move into fourth position, and with 500m to go Gmelin began a strong rhythm ahead of Great Britain's Vicky Thornley, with Lobnig in third place.
Puspure mounted an attack inside the final 250m and wound up the rate to get into the medals but the Austrian sculler held her off for bronze as Gmelin took gold ahead of Thornley. Fourth place for Puspure matched her best world ranking from Amsterdam in 2014.
"The fact that I didn't get a medal is the only thing that's scratching the nerve but apart from that I'm quite happy," she said. "I thought I had nothing to lose so I just went for it. My aim was to make top nine, but I'm fourth in the world so I can't really complain about that."
Ireland managed sixth place in the Florida medal table, alongside Romania, after double gold for Paul O'Donovan in the lightweight single, and Mark O'Donovan and Shane O'Driscoll in the lightweight pair.
But neither of these events is in the Olympic programme, an issue which Rowing Ireland's new high performance director Antonio Maurogiovanni will be looking to address for the future.