X-factor carries Puspure into quarter-finals
SHE'S NOT quite in Mary Byrne territory yet but if Ireland's adopted rower Sanita Puspure keeps her Olympic sculls campaign going tomorrow, she is certainly heading into an Olympic 'X-Factor' scenario.
Much more detail about how the former Latvian international came to move to Ireland and belatedly resumed her rowing career to lose her 'baby fat' emerged after she had qualified for tomorrow's single sculls quarter-finals by finishing third in her heat.
Like Ballyfermot's favourite heroine, Puspure is also a former supermarket checkout worker.
And how she came to represent Ireland in a sport she had long quit is the sort of stuff that the X-Factor producers would be delightedly milking at their auditions.
"I kinda like the story myself," laughed the 30-year-old from Riga, who has dual nationality after living in Ireland for the past six years.
"I don't even know how we settled on Ireland, it was a quick decision," she admitted, revealing that her uncle, already in Ireland, had swung the decision when she and husband Kaspar initially thought thought about emigrating for economic reasons and first thought about going to Britain.
"When I came to Ireland first I was working in a supermarket as a sales assistant," she explained.
"I had my kids (four and five now) and I took up a tennis course in Malahide so I finished as a qualified level-one tennis coach. Then rowing took over."
The entire family moved to Cork last year so that she can train full-time at rowing's HQ in Inniscarra but how she actually returned to the sport -- she's a former European U-23 bronze medallist and also won a World Student Games in a double-scull -- has a real touch of kismet about it.
"Sport wasn't anywhere in my thoughts, we just came here to work," Puspure explained.
"Jut as I was pregnant with our second child, we got lost one day going to the zoo and we found Islandbridge," she explained.
"At that stage I didn't know there was any rowing going on in Dublin.
"And I just thought that when the second child was born I would come and sit in a boat for a while and lose the weight after the baby and have some social life.
"And we just took it from there!"
Irish rowing, which has concentrated most of its resources on its junior programme since Beijing, happily recruited her and had predicted beforehand that she might get into the B final in London.
Puspure describes herself as "honoured" to now represent Ireland and said the Irish supporters "screamed their lungs out" for her in last Saturday's qualifying. Her next outing will come after 11.30 tomorrow when she battles, in the second quarter-final, for a semi-final spot.
"I got through (the heat) without hurting myself too much. I'm saving the special ones for later," she said.
"It's going to be tough to get into the semi-final as there's some really good girls out there, but I'll do my best. I'll be happy to get to the B final."