Puspure shines at World Cup
Sanita Puspure shone for Ireland in sun-kissed Belgrade yesterday after winning her heat of the women's single scull at the World Cup.
Gary and Paul O'Donovan followed Puspure to the semi-finals in the lightweight double scull with a second-place finish.
Their Skibbereen team-mates Mark O'Donovan and Shane O'Driscoll made the men's pair 'C' final through the repechage after struggling in their heat. Aifric Keogh and Emily Hegarty (women's pair) and Aileen Crowley and Monika Dukarska (double scull) also made semi-finals when both finished third in their heats.
This was Crowley and Dukarska's first World Cup race together, with the duo having made the long journey from Killorglin, Co Kerry for the competition in Serbia.
However, for Polish-born Dukarska this is just another part of a journey which began when she moved to Kerry from Poznan, aged 16.
"My mother first went to Ireland on her own after her workplace in Poland shut down. She said, 'I'll go over to make a few extra pound'," Dukarska recalled.
"One day she rang home and said, 'I've been offered a permanent contract in Killorglin'. So I packed up the 16 years of my life into two suitcases with my dad and sister."
The 27-year-old credits rowing with helping her break the ice in a new town.
"When I came to the school I was the only foreign girl in school. Everyone was really welcoming but it was terrifying. I couldn't understand much," she said.
"Taking up rowing helped me improve my English and, ultimately, changed my life."
Dukarska soon went back east to compete for Poland in Europe's under-age regatta, the Coupe de la Jeunesse.
Ireland, though, had a special place in her heart.
"I was 18 training in Poland and my parents were back at home in Ireland. I started calling Ireland home so then I decided I wanted to compete for them and applied for a passport in 2012," she recalled.
The Killorglin club woman has made waves competing as an individual, claiming world coastal championship gold in both 2009 and 2016.
This weekend, though, her focus is triumphing for Ireland.