Out of four crews who competed in Belgrade this weekend at the 2017 World Rowing Cup I, two have won medals at the event including 1 Gold and 1 Silver, and all four were successful in reaching their respective A Finals guaranteeing a top-6 finish.
Shane O’ Driscoll and Mark O’ Donovan were the shining stars of the day leading the way for the Irish with a fantastic win in the lightweight men’s pair, taking home Gold as they overtook Russia, Great Britain and Hungary in the A Final this morning. The Skibbereen crew were neck and neck with Joel Cassells and Sam Scrimgeour of Great Britain for the majority of the race, but produced a big enough sprint in the final 500 metres to pip them to the post by just under two seconds, as well as late advances from Russia who took Silver.
Denise Walsh, also hailing from Skibbereen Rowing Club, was up next in the lightweight women’s single sculls and produced another impressive performance worthy of second place and a Silver medal. The final sprint was also key for Walsh, as she held 5th position for the first half of the race, then put on the gas and shot up from 4th to 2nd through the last 500 metres. Patricia Merz of Sweden took Gold, leading the pack for most of the race. The gutsy performance from Walsh brings Ireland’s medal tally at the first World Cup event of 2017 to two.
As usual, the O’ Donovan brothers were keenly watched throughout weekend and although they raced the A Final of the lightweight men’s double they finished just outside the medals in fourth place. In a tight finish, Chambers and Fletcher of Great Britain took gold, while Czech Republic and Poland followed behind in second and third with just .36 of a second between them. The Irish crew moved into 3rd in the final quarter, but missed out on the Bronze medal by a mere .49 seconds.
Finally today Sanita Puspure rowed bravely in a highly contested race to take 5th in the women’s single. Puspure took 2nd in yesterday’s repechage to ensure a place in the final, and finishes in a very respectable 5th overall position at the 2017 season opener, in a tough field including 2nd place Rio Silver medallist Victoria Thornley of Great Britain and 2016 European Champion Magdalena Lobnig of Austria, who came through in 3rd place.
Overall, it’s been a highly successful World Cup I campaign for Rowing Ireland with a 100% success rate in reaching the top Finals and achieving two medals, Silver and Gold. Congratulations to Shane, Mark, Denise, Paul, Gary and Sanita and we look forward to what is yet to come in the season ahead.