Friday 21 June 2019

Puspure's record time secures European glory

Sanita Puspure celebrates with her gold medal after her European victory in the Women's single sculls
Sanita Puspure celebrates with her gold medal after her European victory in the Women's single sculls

Robert Treharne Jones

The climax of the European Championships in Switzerland yesterday saw Sanita Puspure win gold in the women's single sculls, to add to her 2018 world title.

Ireland's rowers exceeded expectations in Lucerne, with several strong results, including an 'A' final slot for the McCarthy twins in the lightweight men's double sculls.

Ireland's high performance director Antonio Maurogiovanni was pleased with the team, which was entered with the express purpose of assessing their boat speed against international opposition.

"Overall I think we have good information to go home and review everything," Maurogiovanni said.

Puspure's final included Switzerland's Jeannine Gmelin, the 2017 world champion, and Mirka Knapkova, the 2012 Olympic champion.

But a sluggish start saw Puspure trailing fifth behind the early leader, Fie Udby Erichsen of Denmark. Gradually she began to work her way back through the field to lead at the halfway mark, and going on to win, in a new European best time.

Gmelin, who was urged on by the home crowd, took silver, with Knapkova taking bronze.

"I still can't believe it!" said a shocked Puspure. "I didn't think it was going to be my day, to be honest, because I didn't feel in the best shape. The plan was to go off the start and stick with the girls and then keep going. I just wanted to make as much distance as possible."

Asked if there was ever a time when she thought she'd won, she replied: "Probably the last five strokes - the last 250m was awful, but I thought I'd just hang in there and see what happens.

"The Swiss crowd was cheering for Gmelin and I was using that too," she laughed.

Skibbereen twins Jake and Fintan McCarthy lined up for the lightweight doubles final alongside athletes many years their senior, with a clutch of world medals to their credit, with inevitable results.

Jonathan Rommelmann and Jason Osborne won for Germany, ahead of Italy and Belgium, while a last-minute push from Ireland brought them into fifth place on the line.

Ireland's other crews in Lucerne included Denise Walsh and Lydia Heaphy in the lightweight women's double, with Phil Doyle and Ronan Byrne in the heavyweight men's double scull.

Walsh and Heaphy finished 12th in their first major international together, while Doyle and Byrne, who placed ninth in the world last year, finished in 10th place.

The end of the regatta saw Belfast's Rebecca Shorten win silver as a member of the GB crew in the women's eights. The Netherlands led the early part of the race before Romania came through to deny GB the gold by just 0.06 sec.

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