Rowing: Puspure hoping solo mission bears fruit for adopted land
ONE of Ireland's most unlikely London Olympians is the team's sole oarswoman.
While the Celtic Tiger roared, speculation was rife that the 'new Irish' immigrants might substantially improve the nation's sporting gene pool.
That remains to be seen, but for now Sanita Puspure (30) has been one of the few obvious gifts. Six years ago she left her native Riga and flew to Dublin with husband Kaspar to hitch a ride on the Tiger's tail.
They eventually settled in Skerries, and one of her first jobs was as a tennis coach. But with two small children (now five and four) she had no plans to return to competitive rowing, despite having competed for Latvia.
Puspure was a former European U-23 bronze medallist and won double scull gold at the 2004 World Student Games. Yet she hadn't sat in a boat for two years when she joined the Old Collegians club to try to meet new people.
But class will out and, by 2009, she was Irish sculls champion.
Irish rowing spotted her talent and hoped that she and Lisa Dilleen would qualify for London in a double scull, but when that campaign failed -- they needed to finish in the top eight at the Worlds last year and were 12th -- she concentrated on the single scull.
She had to pull out all the stops to do so, moving her family to Ballincollig in County Cork last year to allow her train at the National Rowing Centre in Inniscarra.
But the move paid off when she nabbed the last qualifying spot at the Lucerne regatta in May, and in today's first heat (1.30) she will fly rowing's sole flag for the land that has gratefully adopted her.
Drawing lane six is a tough break, but getting the outside lane doesn't bother her.
"If you just focus on what you can do, if you go for it, then it shouldn't matter," she said.