New lightweight pair world champions look likely to make the move to heavyweight
BY KIERAN McCARTHY
AFTER conquering the world of the lightweight pair, Skibbereen’s newest world champions are keen to make their presence felt at heavyweight level.
Mark O’Donovan (28) and Shane O’Driscoll (25) completed the perfect season when they won gold in the men’s lightweight pair A final at the World Rowing Championships in Sarasota, Florida last Friday.
The Skibbereen Rowing Club duo won every international gold medal on offer this year – gold at the world and European champions and the three World Rowing Cup regattas (Belgrade, Lucerne and Poznan).
But they have a choice to make.
Mark and Shane want to race at the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020 but the lightweight pair is not an Olympic event. With the removal of the lightweight four from the Olympic programme, they have two options – either compete against Gary and Paul O’Donovan for a place in the lightweight double or move up to the heavyweight pair (both are Olympic classes).
It looks far more likely that’ll opt for the latter and join the heavyweight ranks.
‘It’s great to have the options. It would be worse if we weren’t able to do it or that we didn’t have the size to do it. It’s something to consider,’ Mark said.
‘We will live in the moment for now, enjoy what we have achieved.
‘It’s (heavyweight) probably something we will chat about when things die down and we get back into training. At the moment we will enjoy it and enjoy our time off.’
Shane added: ‘We have loads of options. I’d like to take on the heavyweights. We’ll see.’
Mark and Shane will sit down with Rowing Ireland High Performance Coach Dominic Casey, who is in charge of the lightweight division, to hatch their next plan that will shape their chances of being in the mix for the next Olympics.
For now, however, they will enjoy the trappings of being world champions.
‘We are among the best now,’ Mark said.
‘This year couldn’t have gone any better.’
Having dominated the lightweight pair all year there was an expectation that the Skibb men would complete the clean sweep in Sarasota, and that’s just what happened – but they had to cope with the heat and humidity of Florida plus expecting the unexpected.
‘It’s been such a long season and anything can happen between the last World Cup event and the world championships,’ Mark said.
‘Because of the hurricane season in Florida, they knocked the world champs back a bit. It was a longer break than usual. That gives crews the opportunity to get a good training block done so others can go better and others worse, so you don’t know until you get racing. We had a good training camp in Banyoles and that stood to us.
‘It was relief and excitement at the end, when we
crossed the line.’
The Irish pair led from after the 500-metre mark with their stroke rate not falling below 43 strokes per minute, and they held off the challenges of Italy in second and Brazil in third to win gold in 6:34.200.
‘We went off hard and that kept us up there with the pack,’ Mark said.
‘Sometimes you’d see the weaker crews who might not have the chance of winning a medal, they’d go out harder than anyone else, just to give it a crack. But you always know that they will run out of gas. They lead the charge and get the pace up, so we went with them.’
Shane added: ‘We had all those boats beaten already this year but to beat them at the world championship is a great feeling.
‘I knew that the first minute of the race would be crucial. I was focussing on that. It was our toughest race of the season.
‘It’s like going and racing in Skibbereen regatta, we went out and raced as fast as we can and not let the pressure get to us. And it all worked out.’