FINISHING fifth in the A final of the lightweight women’s double at the European Rowing Championships has raised hopes that the young crew of Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen can cause a shock at the final Olympic qualification regatta in Lucerne in May.
The all-Cork combination – Casey (21) is from Skibbereen while Cremen (22) is from Rochestown – had finished eighth at the 2020 Europeans so this fifth-place finish in Varese highlights their improvement.
This duo will target one of the two spots up for grabs at the Olympic qualification regatta next month, but former Irish Olympic lightweight rower Claire Lambe feels the Paris Games in 2024 is a more realistic option for the young crew, though she thinks they have ‘an outside chance’ in Lucerne.
‘I still think it’s an outside chance and there will be a lot of countries outside of Europe coming in to that Olympic qualifier but I think they have stepped up really well over the winter,’ Lambe told RTÉ Sport.
‘The top boats in that (European) final are medallists from the last World championships so that’s the company that they’re in with.
‘The qualifier for the lightweight double is really tough. I think the lightweight squad, including Lydia (Heaphy), is a pathway for Paris 2024 – that’s really their main target. If they qualify for Tokyo it would be an amazing stepping stone for them, but it is still an outside chance.’
In their heat last Friday Casey and Cremen finished second in 7:56:00, just behind The Netherlands, and progressed straight to Sunday’s A final. There, they started well but had no answer to the power of the top crews as Italy, Great Britain and The Netherlands filled the top three positions while Romania were fourth, ahead of Ireland in fifth, and Russia were in sixth place.
‘I think they will be happy with their speed relative to the top boats,’ former Skibbereen Olympic rower Timmy Harnedy told RTÉ Sport.
‘This boat is going to the final Olympic qualification regatta and I think they are in that conversation now. They have an outside chance of qualifying for the Olympics.’