Friday 14 December 2018

Rowing: Latvian earns Olympic spot for Ireland

Robert Treharne-Jones

Latvian-born sculler Sanita Puspure made history yesterday in Switzerland when she became the first woman rower from Ireland to 'qualify' for an Olympics.

Carrick-on-Shannon sculler Frances Cryan was the first to compete in an Olympics, when she took part at Moscow in 1980 -- without having to go through a qualifying process.

Now, international rowing rules demand a series of qualification events, and this week's final regatta in Lucerne gave only the top four scullers a chance to compete in London.

As Dane Fie Udby Erichsen made the early pace, with Australian Kim Crow close behind, Puspure clung on in the vital fourth place, with Kaisa Pajusalu of Estonia in third.

By halfway, the Estonian had run out of steam and Gevvie Stone of the USA pushed on hard to take up third ahead of Puspure, though Iva Obradovic of Serbia briefly moved up to fourth. Puspure put in a charge with 500m to go, and threw everything into it as the field headed for the line.

Crow qualified in first place, with Erichsen second, Stone third and Puspure fourth.

"I put everything into that last 500m -- it was a huge risk, but I'm glad it paid off," she said.

"It feels pretty amazing -- it hasn't really sunk in yet, so I'm looking forward to waking up tomorrow."

Puspure represented Latvia at U-23 level, but moved, with her husband, to Ireland in 2006 and joined Old Collegians, going on to win the Senior Sculls in the Irish National Championships in 2009 and 2010.

Last year she moved with her family from Dublin to the Irish National training centre at Inniscara in Cork.

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