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Can the best lightweight men’s double in the world get even better?

August 10th, 2021 1:10 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

Fintan McCarthy, left, and Paul O'Donovan won gold at the Tokyo Olympics.

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HOLD on to your seats because the fastest lightweight men’s double in the world is about to get faster.

Olympic champions Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy rubber-stamped their position as number one in the world with a magnificent gold medal at the Tokyo Games.

In their semi-final they powered to a world best time of 6:05.33, shaving three hundredths of a second off the previous world record set by South Africa back in 2014.

So, not alone are they now Olympic, World and European champions, but they also own the world record. That’s incredible dominance by Paul and Fintan, but they won’t be allowed rest on their laurels at all as two more Skibbereen rowers want to get into that Irish lightweight double.

Gary O’Donovan, back-up to the boat in Tokyo, is a 2016 Olympic silver medallist and a former World champion (2018) in the lightweight men’s double and he will be determined to force his way into the fastest boat in the world.

Then there is Jake McCarthy, Fintan’s twin brother, who is also putting his hand up for selection. Jake is part of the Irish lightweight men’s training group and was pushing for selection in the double before a back injury sidelined him for a huge chunk of 2020. He’s on the comeback and he wants to get in the boat, too.

‘I want the same thing,’ Jake told the Star Sport Podcast after watching his brother Fintan win Olympic gold.

‘Watching it on Thursday night a light bulb switched on. That’s where you want to be, you put in so much of your work and so much of your time. That’s the pinnacle.

‘Even seeing how much it inspires everyone and the support that you get, it’s such a motivating factor as well, that affect that it has on people and the nation. It’s motivating to think that I am doing it for everyone as well.’

The 2024 Paris Olympics are only three years away and those Games are likely to be the swansong for lightweight rowing with it set to be removed from the Olympic schedule, so Ireland, which has such a proud tradition of lightweight rowing, will want to bow out on a high.

It’s likely that there will be, again, two sets of brothers, Paul and Gary and Jake and Fintan, from the same parish of Aughadown all competing against one another to get into best lightweight men’s boat in the world. And they’re coached by an Aughadown man also, Dominic Casey.

Four world-class rowers pushing each other on can only mean that boat will be even better over the coming years.

‘In order to get into the boat you have to be better than the best in the world and if you want to stay in the boat you need to be better than the guys who are the best in the world and are world champions. The standard is here in Skibbereen for the lightweight double,’ Gary told the Star before – and those words are timely again now.

Paul and Fintan will enjoy their gold now, but then things will get interesting, again.

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