Counting four top ten race finishes in their first Olympic Regatta the young pair have shown the world that they can compete at the highest level. They’ll now turn their attention to the London Games in 2012. In the Opening Series O’Leary & Milne count 6th, 12th, 7th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 8th, 11th, 12th and discard 13th.
Boxing:Then there were three. The Irish boxing team did it again, this time it was Darren Sutherland who stepped up his performance to follow Paddy Barnes and Ken Egan and claim at least a bronze medal after pummelling his Venezuelan opponent Alfonso Blanco Parra 11-1.
Ireland’s boxers are now enjoying their best Olympics since 1956 in Melbourne when they won a silver and three bronze.
“I’m absolutely delighted. I still can’t believe this moment has come. I don’t want to get emotional here, I’ll keep it behind closed doors. Four years of hard, hard work has really paid off,” he said.
Two years ago Sutherland suffered an injury to his eye that threatened his career, doctors were convinced he’d never box again.
“To come back from that injury two years ago and now I’m standing before you as not only an Olympian but an Olympic medallist.”
Parra had beaten Sutherland at the World Championships last year but this time the South American never got a look in.
Sutherland opened the scoring with a left hook and caught Parra twice more in quick succession to take a 3-0 lead at the end of the first round.
The world silver medallist eventually got a point on the board in the second but Sutherland twice hit back and at the midway point led 6-1.
He was eight points ahead by the end of the third leaving the last round as a mere formality.
“To get one over on Blanco, everything happens for a reason and I really do believe in fate. The one thing I said coming out here was ‘I’d love a little bit of luck with the draw’. I’m prepared to box whoever but a little bit of luck would be nice. I wanted to avoid the main three – the Cuban, the Russian and the Kazakh – until the medal stages,” admitted Sutherland.
“We sat down and we looked at the Venezuelan’s video. The tactics were perfect, tie in the guard and get in close and don’t let him work. If I kept it at range I was going to play into his hands. I did a bit of fireworks with the other fight but I gave away fourteen points so I didn’t want to do that with this one. I think I gave away one or two so I’m over the moon. He played straight into my hands because my object was to try and close him down and that’s what I was looking to do but as soon as the bell went, he came straight at me and that was perfect because in the zone I’m pretty strong. If anyone steps in and trades with me there’s probably going to be only one winner but it definitely gave me the advantage because I am naturally physically strong.”
Sutherland will now fight Britain’s James Degale at 8am Irish time on Friday morning for a place in the gold medal decider. The two have fought five times before and the Irishman has won four times but did lose the last bout.
The Englishman said, “With the skills I’ve got, I should beat him everyday. This time, I’m going to use my brain and he shouldn’t beat me.”
Sutherland was more diplomatic. “I’ve boxed him before but it’s nothing personal, it’s just business. That’s the way I’m looking at it. He’s just another opponent like everybody else. We’ve always had exciting fights and we’ll have another exciting one. It’s brilliant, it’s great for Great Britain too to have a medal of some sort. They have a few already but it’s all about Irish boxing now. We’re definitely punching above our weight.”
We’ll see what happens on Friday.
Athletics: Ireland’s Alistair Cragg finished sixth in his 5000 metre heat and qualified for Saturday’s final.
But he advances to the final as he is one of the fastest losers. His time was actually faster than the winner of the two other heats.
Cragg started the race at a good pace and took the lead. He was head of the pack with a few laps to go but dropped back.
It was as the final lap bell tolled that Cragg kicked on , the conditions were clearly having an affect on the athletes and Cragg went all out to try to qualify automatically.
But he came up short and didn’t have enough to breach the top four.
Luckily, his time proved to be very competitive and he will take his place in Saturday’s final.
Matt Tegenkamp of the US won the heat in a time of 13:37.36, with Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge second and Tariku Bekele of Ethiopia in third.
Meanwhile Thomas Chamney finished fifth in his 800m heat in a time of 1.47.66 and failed to progress to the semi-finals.