Sunday 22 September 2019

Sanita claims gold as Ireland lay down a marker for Tokyo

Sanita Puspure takes home gold. Photo: Andreas Pranter/Gepa Pictures/Sportsfile
Sanita Puspure takes home gold. Photo: Andreas Pranter/Gepa Pictures/Sportsfile

Robert Teharne Jones

Ireland's rowers rounded off their World Championships campaign with another gold for single sculler Sanita Puspure and an historic silver medal for Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne in the men's double scull.

The total medal tally of two gold, a silver and a bronze placed Ireland seventh in the table, ahead of historically more successful rowing nations such as Great Britain, Russia and Canada.

And with four crews qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, including the first heavyweight men's crew since 2008, Rowing Ireland has many reasons to celebrate.

When Sanita Puspure raced to the gold yesterday in the women's single sculls it marked another major milestone for the 37-year-old from Old Collegians.

Pursuit

Great Britain's Vicky Thornley took the early lead before Emma Twigg of New Zealand came through with Puspure in hot pursuit at 500 metres.

Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne achieve silver, in Ireland’s best-ever world event. Photo: Andreas Pranter/Gepa Pictures/Sportsfile
Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne achieve silver, in Ireland’s best-ever world event. Photo: Andreas Pranter/Gepa Pictures/Sportsfile

At the halfway mark Twigg continued to lead Puspure by a length but the two scullers had clear water on the rest of the field. By 1,300m, the gap had narrowed, and with 350 metres to go Puspure changed gear and kicked on hard to take the lead, crossing the line to take the gold ahead of Twigg, with the USA's Kara Kohler taking bronze.

"Last year was special, and I knew gold would never be the same again, but it still feels great, but it will probably take a few days to think about what happened," she said.

"I had a tough summer, when I thought if I simply qualified the boat for Tokyo I would be doing really well."

Earlier in the day Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne took silver behind China in the men's double sculls - the first heavyweight men's medal for Ireland's rowers since Sean Drea won silver in the single sculls at the 1975 world championships.

China's Lui Zhiyu and Zhang Liang took an early lead, with Ireland in fourth position at 500m and at the halfway mark Doyle and Byrne were still out of contention for a medal. But with 800m to go they upped the rate to 38 to place second, but could never get on terms with China, who took gold.

Both men paid tribute to the rigorous training regime devised by high performance director Antonio Maurogiovanni and coach Dave McGowan.

"It's a very tough programme. It took a while to get used to it and it's very different to what people in Ireland would have been used to in the last decade but we're now seeing the results," said Byrne. With Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy qualified in the lightweight double scull for Tokyo, and Aileen Crowley and Monika Dukarska also making the grade in the women's pair, the regatta was Ireland's most successful world championships.

The level of achievement even eclipses the championships in Lucerne in 2001 where the team won three gold medals, but these were in non-Olympic boat classes.

Irish Independent

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