2018 world champ determined to find his best form ahead of Olympic qualifiers
BY KIERAN McCARTHY
GARY O’Donovan says he knows what he needs to do to return to top form.
The oldest of the two O’Donovan brothers was disappointed with his 16th place overall finish in the men’s lightweight single sculls at the European Rowing Championships in Lucerne last weekend.
In the absence of Paul, who sat out the Europeans because of exams at UCC, this was the first time Gary competed at this level in a lightweight single scull. But a wrist injury he suffered when training in New Zealand earlier this year kept him off the water for two months and he admits he’s not in the best shape he’s ever been in.
That showed in Lucerne. Gary was a distant sixth in his heat on Friday morning but did improve for the repechage later that day to finish fourth. Only the top three advanced to the A/B semi-finals so Gary had to be content with the C final.
Here, on Saturday, he was fifth after 500 metres, second at the halfway mark, third with 500 to go before settling for fourth spot in 7:18.110. That’s 16th overall in Europe.
‘The placing wasn’t great, I was way down the field. I was coming over here not knowing really where I was. I’ve been doing a bit of training and I didn’t do great at the Skibbereen regatta a few weeks ago,’ Gary told RTÉ Sport afterwards.
‘I discussed it with Dominic (Casey, coach) before we made the entry, would it be the right thing to come over and give it a bash? I reckoned it was – and Dominic agreed with me – to come over here and do the racing and get a placing, and test the body more so than anything.
‘I was hoping to get into the A final and I would have loved to have got a medal. It puts it into perspective where I am and what I need to do, how much training I need to do to get back in shape.
‘I guess, in perspective, I have never been the fastest sculler in the world at my very best. In the single scull I have been quite a bit behind Paul. Obviously he is the benchmark in world rowing when it comes to lightweight men. I’m usually seven seconds behind him so that wouldn’t rank me in the medals, generally.
‘To come here and race is part of the plan to get fit and fast for the world championships at the end of the summer.’
Gary is determined to keep his place in the lightweight double with Paul. Together the 2016 Olympic silver medallists won gold at the 2018 World Rowing Championships but they are facing pressure from Skibbereen club-mates Jake and Fintan McCarthy, who finished fifth in the lightweight men’s double at the Europeans.
The 2019 World Rowing Championships in Linz, Austria, at the end of August also double up as qualifiers for the 2020 Olympics so this is an important year for Gary and Paul.
There are national trials at the end of June so the pressure has been cranked up.
‘I got my third fastest ever time in the single in the repechage but I just missed out on making the semi-finals. All hope isn’t lost,’ Gary pointed out.
‘I just need to do more mileage, build up more endurance for the weekend of racing. I’ll go home and try to get faster every day and put in more mileage, do some more training and do all the right things between now and the end of the summer.’
Speaking after the Europeans, Rowing Ireland’s High Performance Director, Antonio Maurogiovanni said, ‘I have no doubt that all our crews have a significant margin of improvement as well as all the rest of the European crews racing this weekend. The challenge is up to our abilities to improve as much as we can physiologically, technically and psychologically. This event has given to me significant indications in order to evaluate the whole situation and put together the most appropriate strategies to help our athletes to perform at their best.’