PAUL O’Donovan feels the current Irish lightweight men’s double is faster than the 2016 version that won silver at the Olympic Games in Rio.
Five years ago Paul and Gary O’Donovan won Ireland’s first-ever rowing medal at the Olympics, but now Paul is partnered by another Skibbereen rower, Fintan McCarthy, in the lightweight double.
Together, Paul and Fintan have won World and European gold, and dominated this event – and they are firm favourites for gold when the rowing action begins on the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo.
Encouragingly, ahead of the Tokyo Games that start later this month, Paul says this current boat is faster than it was in 2016.
‘I would think so,’ he said.
‘Just looking at the ergometer scores we have done through the year I am faster now than I was in Rio so that shows me I am fitter,’ the four-time world champion explained.
‘Fintan is faster than Gary now. They’re pretty similar on the ergometer, in fairness. They’re very close but both of them are faster than what Gary had been in Rio.
‘If you look at some of our race results, in the lead up to Rio we were just about making the podium and then had a good pre-Olympic camp and then jumped. In 2016 we won Europeans that year but then we were between second and fourth. We had a good camp and made the jump up onto podium then. But in the lead up to this Games we seem to be more consistently in first place in the races, so you could say that we do look to be a faster combination than the last Olympics.’
Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy have been together in the lightweight men’s double since the summer of 2019, and that broke up the combination of Paul and Gary, though the latter is the replacement for the boat at the upcoming Olympics.
‘Naturally, Gary would be very disappointed not to be in the boat. He tried very hard, did a lot of training and gave it his best shot,’ Paul said.
‘But we’ve always said to each other that we want to be in the fastest boat, whoever that is. If I’m not in it, or he’s not in it, that’s just the case.
‘Everyone kind of assumed, “Oh, they’re the brothers, that’s why they’re in the boat together”. But we were like, “That’s not the case, we just happened to be the fastest two. If someone comes around and beats us, then they get in”.
‘That did happen. You just have to accept that and get on with it. Naturally, I do like trying to win races. So if I can have a faster combination, then, naturally, you’re going to be a bit happier having a better chance of winning those gold medals.’