THESE are testing times on all fronts for Skibbereen’s European rowing champions, brothers Gary and Paul O’Donovan.
This weekend, starting Friday, the recently crowned European men’s lightweight double sculls champions will test themselves against the world’s best crews at the second World Cup Regatta, in Lucerne, Switzerland, as their preparation for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro continue.
Not only that, oldest brother Gary (23) is keeping his fingers crossed that he has passed his final year marketing college exams at CIT – taken the week after he won European gold – because the repeats are on in August, when he’ll be representing Ireland in the Olympics.
‘We both had exams the week after the Europeans, so as soon we got back home the focus switched to studying for them. It was back to reality pretty fast. The exams became the priority but it was almost a nice distraction to get too at this time of the year, and we came back to training last week more focused than ever,’ explained Gary, who also acknowledged that the Skibbereen duo will get a better understanding of where they stand in the pecking order after this weekend’s World Cup regatta in Lucerne.
‘Being the European champions is a big confidence-booster for us but we have to bear in mind too that South Africa, who beat us in Italy (in the first World Cup regatta), will be in action this weekend,’ the Lisheen rower said.
‘We’ll also be up against both France (world champions) and Great Britain (world silver medallists), who weren’t at the Europeans; we haven’t raced them yet this year. It will be good for us to test ourselves against them this weekend because they were the top two crews in the world last year.
‘Norway will be there as well so it’s going to be very competitive. All the top crews will be there apart from Italy and Germany.
‘We’re looking forward to testing ourselves against the best in the world. We have nothing to fear. If these guys are faster than us, then so be it. It’s good fun and exciting to be in the position that we’re in, competing against the very best.’
Gary and Paul will have only one more international regatta – the third and final World Cup event, in Poznan, Poland – ahead of the Olympics.