EMILY Hegarty and the Irish women’s four aren’t travelling to the Olympic Games just to take part, they’re going to take over.
Last Sunday at the final Olympic qualification regatta in Lucerne, the Irish four of Hegarty, Eimear Lambe, Aifric Keogh and Fiona Murtagh won their final to guarantee their spot at the summer’s Games in Tokyo.
It wasn’t just that the Irish boat took one of the two qualification places on offer that impressed, it was their domination of the event over the weekend.
Coming off the back of a silver medal at the recent European Rowing Championships, there’s a growing belief that this crew could be one to watch in Tokyo.
‘We know we have come so close to world medallists and triple-European champions and we know we have got faster since then,’ Skibbereen rower Hegarty explains.
‘For us, it’s a good motivator to have in our minds that we want a medal.
‘We have 67 days of training left until the Games begin so we want to make the most out of those and behave as if we will win a medal. At this stage there is nothing to lose, so why wouldn’t we expect anything else?’
It was in the second half of last Sunday’s final in Lucerne that Hegarty, from Moonagh in Aughadown, knew that this powerful Irish women’s four were closing in on their place at the Olympics. Again, like their heat win on Saturday, it was a fast start that sent them on their way – and that was an area that they focussed on during the recent training camp in Varese.
‘At the Europeans we gave the other crews an advantage off the start so that was our main focus during the camp because we had been a bit slow to get up to speed,’ the 22-year-old West Cork woman says.
‘In the past three or four weeks in Varese our focus was on getting the boat moving because we know once we are at race rhythm then we are really fast. It was a case of fine-tuning the beginning and the end of the race.
‘After the heat we didn’t think we had a brilliant race or that we rowed our best, but we were leading off the blocks.’
10/10 would recommend qualifying for the Olympic Games ✅
What a day ? So proud to be a part of a BIG and STRONG team of Irish women going to the Tokyo Olympics ?? pic.twitter.com/HYQoCWqfxk
— Aifric Keogh (@aifricsk) May 17, 2021
That set up a super Sunday in Lucerne and they weren’t going to be stopped in the final as they raced to glory, finishing two and a half seconds ahead of the Chinese, and there was open water back to Italy in third.
‘Once we crossed the line it was just relief that we pulled it off,’ Hegarty says.
‘With 700 metres to go, China and Italy were in the lanes on either side of us, and we could see them behind us. It was a case of hold it together because it was less than three minutes to the end.’
There will be a few well-earned days off this week before it’s back to work ahead of the Olympics. The rowers that were in the boat at the final Olympic qualification regatta are the rowers that will take the seats in the boats at the Games, so Hegarty & Co already know they are Tokyo-bound – and they are determined to make their presence felt.