WITH the final Olympic qualification regatta in Lucerne next month now the main focus, Emily Hegarty believes that the Irish women’s four can build on their superb silver medal success at the European Rowing Championships.
The Skibbereen rower is part of the Irish women’s four crew that powered to second place in the A final to underline their credentials ahead of Lucerne in May.
‘It’s a massive confidence booster,’ Hegarty told the Star Sport Podcast.
‘We have all put in a massive winter’s work and it’s almost a relief to see that it paying off now. It’s a real boost going into the rest of the season.’
In the boat with Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe and Fiona Murtagh, Hegarty & Co were extremely impressive at the Europeans.
They won their heat last Friday in the quickest qualifying time and in Sunday’s A final they pushed the highly-rated Netherlands right to the line. In fact, they almost caught the Dutch crew with less than half a second between the gold and silver medallists – Ireland finished in 6:27.96, with the Netherlands winning in 6:27.51, and Great Britain third in 6:31.27.
‘We are delighted with the result, we know the Dutch are a class act so it was good to get close to them. It was a really nice boost, to finish the race having come so close to them,’ Hegarty says. ‘I think it is only ourselves and Russia from that A final that are yet to qualify (for the Olympics) and we know there are a few boats to come into it, like China and there’s potentially a New Zealand crew. We’re not sure who will come from outside of Europe for the final Olympic qualification regatta, but we know we’re in with a shot. The job isn’t done yet so we’ve work to do in the next few weeks.’
Last weekend’s performance marks the Irish crew out as one to watch at the final Olympic qualification regatta in mid-May, and UCC student Hegarty (22) is excited about this boat’s potential.
‘We had been doing quite well in the trials and in pieces at training,’ the Skibb woman says. ‘We were quite confident going in and we knew we had the potential to be quite fast and it’s definitely nice to see that come to form in our first international race together as a new crew. It was nice to see that speed and we still know that there are margins to step up and improve.’
This crew is the fittest they’ve ever been, Hegarty says, and they’ll benefit too from the training camp in Varese that they are currently on. They’ll stay in Italy until the qualification regatta (May 15th to 17th) and the belief is that they’ll arrive in Lucerne in an even better position. If they do that, they’ll be in with a great chance of booking their seats on the plane to the Tokyo Games in July.