EMILY Hegarty described her first experience of the senior World Rowing Championships as ‘bittersweet’.
The 20-year-old Skibbereen woman partnered Galway’s Aifric Keogh (26) in the Olympic-class women’s pair and this new combination, both UCC rowers, surprised many by qualifying for the A final.
Their performance in the semi-final was particularly impressive as they came from fifth place with 500 metres to go to snatch a sensational win by 0.2 seconds ahead of Italy.
The duo made history by becoming the first Irish women’s pair to qualify for a world final. That put them in the medal talk for Saturday’s A final, but Hegarty and Keogh couldn’t follow up their semi-final heroics as they had to settle for a sixth place finish.
While Canada and New Zealand battled it out for gold and silver, the four remaining crews contested for bronze, but the Irish pair were off the pace, finishing 11 seconds behind Spain who came in third.
But in the semi-final, Hegarty and Keogh beat both Spain and Italy, who finished ahead of them in the final, so this new crew has shown they can mix it with the best in the world.
‘It was bittersweet. There is a lot of learning to come from it. I did enjoy it and it is nice to experience an A final at my first world championships but at the same time it wasn’t our best race this week. We can only learn from it,’ Hegarty said afterwards, with Keogh keen to build on the sixth place finish in Bulgaria.
‘This is a massive stepping point for us,’ she said.
‘Going into next season this is a good point to start from and hopefully we can deliver these results consistently and have the confidence when, this time next year when it is qualification time, that something like (Saturday) doesn’t happen again.’
While they might have been disappointed with their sixth place finish, Hegarty and Keogh showed enough to suggest that they have the potential to be in contention for the 2020 Olympic qualification places that will be up for grabs at next year’s world championships.