Sport

Sharing of knowledge helps rowers go faster

August 9th, 2017 1:00 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

Skibbereen Rowing Club's elite Gary and Paul O'Donovan, Denise Walsh, Mark O'Donovan and Shane O'Driscoll.

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Skibb's famous four are all learning from one another


THEY'LL, in all probability, be competing against each other for two seats in one boat for the 2020 Olympic Games but there are no secrets among Skibbereen Rowing Club's elite four international oarsmen.

The O'Donovan brothers, Gary and Paul, are currently the men in the Irish lightweight double – the only Olympic class men's lightweight boat – and the challenge for other lightweight Irish rowers who want to race in Tokyo in 2020 is to dislodge one of the Lisheen Olympic silver medallists.

What makes this very interesting is that it looks like two other Skibb rowers, Mark O'Donovan and Shane O'Driscoll, currently undefeated in the men's lightweight pair this year (a non-Olympic class boat), seem in the best position to challenge for a place in the double.

While the O'Donovans are in the double this year and Mark and Shane dominate in the pair, life could get interesting next year if the latter duo try to compete for a seat in the double – but that won't change the dynamic between the four friends who constantly help one another to row faster. 

‘What's good is that we have four of the best lightweight men in the world based out of Skibbereen, we have Denise (Walsh), one of the top female single scullers in the world, and a bunch of U23 guys and younger fellas that are coming as well. There is a real open sharing of knowledge,' Gary O'Donovan explained.

‘Shane and Mark's success is becoming very prominent, they are undefeated all year and people would ask us if we are concerned now that they might take our seat – but that's been a concern all our life.

‘It's not as if I am trying to disrupt Shane's training or Mark's training, we always consult with each other, and I could very easily tell Shane to change his technique with the want to slow him down for my own benefit – but there is none of that.

‘There is a whole team of us there and everyone wants everyone else to do well. 

‘Ultimately it will make the lightweight double – the Olympic boat – faster and the ultimate goal in that is to win a gold medal, so whoever is in it doesn't matter a damn as long as Ireland win it.'

What also helps all four Skibb rowers go faster – and that's what they are striving for ahead of the world championships in September in Florida – is that they can lean on each other for knowledge and advice, as Gary explained at the popular Off The Ball live radio show that was held at the West Cork Hotel in Skibbereen last week.

‘The coach (Dominic Casey) got an iPad there a few years ago, it's brilliant altogether, you can slow things down frame by frame to critique things. It's a huge asset,' Gary said,

‘Let's say we are away on a training camp, we'd (Gary, Paul, Shane and Mark) all sit down in the bedroom in the evening together and go through the video footage frame by frame, and see what each other thinks, and compare and contrast, and our coach is there with us overseeing it.'

World single scull champion Paul adds: ‘Dominic is a great coach, he is excellent when it comes to technique. 

‘He is looking at us all year round and when we are on training camp we are rowing for four hours a day so he is following us up and down, watching us as we take 2,000 strokes for each training session, so that's 4,000 or 5,000 strokes a day, and it could all become the same to him after a while. 

‘That's why it's good that we are open and sharing, that Mark or Shane can take a look at me and we'll look at them, and everyone's input is discussed in a group, and that really helps.'

Gary feels that Dominic Casey's decision to hand them more responsibility works to everyone's advantage.

‘The coach isn't afraid to hand over the responsibility to us to take charge of our own technique,' he said.

‘Of course he has an input, we discuss it with him and we discuss it with the other athletes, and when we want to change the technique we discuss it with him – but he hands us over the responsibility which really empowers us to think that we are in control of our own destiny in a way.'

The Skibb rowers are currently training here in Ireland ahead of a training camp in Spain in a few weeks before the world championships. 

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