FORMER Irish Olympic rower Niall O’Toole has urged new world men’s lightweight pair champions Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll to switch their attention to the heavyweight pair immediately.
The Skibbereen Rowing Club stars have dominated the lightweight pair this year but seeing as it is not an Olympic event, they need to decide whether to make the jump to heavyweight or switch their attention to the lightweight double that Paul and Gary O’Donovan have had great success in.
O’Toole, who was Ireland’s first lightweight world champion back in 1991, feels it’s an easy choice to make.
‘I definitely think they should go heavyweight,’ he told The Southern Star.
‘It would be a mistake to break up Paul and Gary, they need to go again.
‘Shane and Mark have to go in the heavyweight pair. They are ten kilos off where they should be. Now is the time that they need to focus on building that muscle for Tokyo 2020.
‘They could throw a bucket over the side of the boat and win another world championship next year, there is no question about that. But for themselves, they need to race at the Olympics, that’s the pinnacle. The temptation will be there to win another world title in the lightweight pair but I think they have to – and they will – take on the challenge of moving up to heavyweight.’
While lightweight crews must average 70kg, heavyweight men can be any weight – but Mark and Shane would need to add at least 10kg to compete against bigger and stronger rowers.
O’Toole made the jump from lightweight to heavyweight at one point. He knows what’s needed.
‘It’s a difficult process, I don’t think they will have a massively good year next year, we need to be patient with them, we need to look towards 2019,’ explained O’Toole who was in the Irish lightweight four alongside Skibb’s Eugene Coakley that finished sixth in the A final at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
‘The pair is highly technical so light guys can move the pair if they move it really well. They can beat bigger guys who don’t row it as well.
‘What tends to happen is that weightlifting muscles are different from rowing muscles so they will have to do a programme of weights and they also need to bring that power and strength into their rowing strokes. It is different. That’s why they need that time – to put on the muscle and then transfer that into boat speed.
‘The boys could be ten kilogrammes heavier and for the first six months the boat could go slower.
‘It takes time to build that muscle and it takes time to understand that with the greater strength you can’t just smash the boat along in the water, you need to translate that into proper rowing power.
‘That takes time, so it should happen soon and start building.’