O'Donovans seal semi spot
Ireland's Olympic medallists qualified for the semi-finals at the European Championships which got under way in the Czech Republic yesterday.
But Paul and Gary O'Donovan, the reigning European champions, still have some way to go to regain the sort of form which earned them a silver medal at the Lagoa Stadium in Rio last summer.
In their opening heat they needed to be first across the line to claim a direct place in the semi. But while the Russians, Anton Kuranov and Nazar Lifshitc, made the early running the Skibbereen men trailed back in third place. As the second half opened up the Polish double, Jerzy Kowalski and Milosz Jankowski, came through the field to take first place in the fastest qualifying time in the event, six seconds clear of Ireland.
Three hours later the brothers had their second chance in the repechages, and this time they made no mistake.
As the veteran Portuguese double, Pedro Fraga and Nuno Mendes, front-loaded their race to lead at half way, the O'Donovans used the third quarter to good effect, storming through the opposition and crossing the line to qualify along with second-placed Ukraine.
The big question is whether the extra race will have disadvantaged the Rio silver medallists come today's semi-finals, while the likes of Jeremie Azou and Pierre Houin, the French Olympic champions, qualified direct.
In the lightweight women's single sculls Skibbereen's Denise Walsh took command of her heat after a sluggish start to take first place and qualify comfortably for the semi-finals.
Walsh is looking to go one better than the silver medal she won at the World Cup regatta three weeks ago in Belgrade, but will first have to get past Patricia Merz, the Swiss sculler who took first place in the Serbian capital.
Ireland's other medallists in Belgrade, Shane O' Driscoll and Mark O'Donovan, had an easier path in yesterday's racing. With only five entries in their event they rowed a preliminary race to get a feel for the water, but all five will have their real test in tomorrow's final.
Warm sunshine and calm conditions on the lake greeted more than 500 European rowers taking part at the regatta venue, an hour's drive north of Prague, with similar conditions forecast for the weekend.