No regrets for battling Lambe and Lynch
The Rio Olympics ended in disappointment for Sinead Lynch and Claire Lambe as they finished sixth and last in the women's lightweight double sculls final at the Lagoa Stadium yesterday.
Less than 20 minutes later the O'Donovan brothers Paul and Gary created sporting history when they secured Ireland's first Olympic medal in rowing. The glass ceiling had finally been smashed and Lynch and Lambe quickly forgot their heartbreak as they cheered the Skibbereen natives home and then dashed down the jetty to congratulate them.
"Oh my God what a result, It's fabulous for them. I can't believe it. I would have expected that going out. When it's a fight they can fight and they certainly did there," said Lynch. "They're are unbelievable lads, absolutely unbelievable, It's brilliant," said Lambe.
The country has waited since 1948 to win an Olympic medal and even as the girls were bitterly disappointed they could see the bigger picture of how this breakthrough could transform the fortunes of rowing in Ireland.
After heavy rain for most of the morning, the skies suddenly brightened and the mist lifted to reveal Christ the Redeemer statue just as the six crews waited for the green light at the start of the 2,000m lightweight final.
But the Irish girls were off the pace right from the start and by the 500m mark were already a boat length behind the field and three seconds adrift of the early leaders China. As a fascinating race developed up front the Irish crew drifted.
South Africa were the half way leaders but they ultimately blew up and it was the Netherlands that proved the class act in the race winning in 7:04.73. Canada finished second in 7:05.88 with China hanging on to the bronze in 7:06.49. New Zealand were fourth and the US fifth with Ireland finishing a sixth in 7:13.09.
The challenge facing the Irish team was underlined by the improvement the Dutch and Canadian crews managed to achieve between the semi-final and the final. The Dutch were nine seconds faster than their penultimate race while the Canadians were 11 seconds quicker.
Lynch and Lambe were more than five seconds faster but it wasn't sufficient to put them in the hunt for a podium. Their achievement, however, represents a significant breakthrough as they are the first Irish female boat to reach an Olympic decider.
The girls were in philosophical mood afterwards and Lynch said they had no regrets.
"We had a really good row, maybe not the best start but I think if we hadn't been side by side with the five top crews in the world, we might have thought that was a brilliant start. We got into a really good rhythm, tried really hard and even sprinted at the end, which we don't normally get right, but we did that really well.
"I wanted to do everyone proud because watching at home there are so many gathered. My parents are with a crowd at home in Hawthorn Heights and at St Michael's Rowing Club there is a gathering. It's just amazing the support from home. It would have been so amazing to grab a medal and we didn't do that. But we did ourselves proud," she said.
Dubliner Lambe said the Irish fans in the Lagoa Stadium had been amazing.
"At the moment there is the disappointment of not reaching the final goal, but I think in the next couple of days we'll look back at this with the best memories and be really proud of what myself and Sinead have done."
Meanwhile, Sanita Puspure qualified for the C final in the women's single sculls when she had 12 seconds to spare over her nearest rival in the semi-final yesterday.