LYDIA Heaphy signed off on her UCC college days in style at the Irish Rowing Championships.
The Skibbereen rower, in action in UCC colours for the final time, finished the weekend with two national titles, easing to a comfortable victory in the women’s lightweight single on Friday before helping UCC win the women’s senior eight on Sunday evening.
‘It’s always nice to win the lightweight single because I have been training in it all year and it’s my category, but unfortunately a lot of people pulled out so it was just me and one other girl racing. Still, it’s always nice to win,’ explained Heaphy, who won a silver medal in this event at Rowing World Cup II in Lucerne in May.
The Leap woman (23) was all geared up then for the women’s senior quad on Saturday, part of a star-studded UCC crew including Skibbereen duo Emily Hegarty and Aoife Casey, and Mags Cremen, but that race didn’t go ahead.
On Sunday morning, Heaphy finished second in the women’s senior single sculls final, coming in behind her UCC team-mate Mags Cremen. But her final race for UCC was a memorable one, as the college saw off NUIG/Galway Rowing Club by less than two seconds in the women’s senior eight. The winning UCC boat contained four Olympians, Emily Hegarty, Aoife Casey, Aifric Keogh and Margaret Cremen.
‘The eights are always great races, especially with the colleges because they always have big boats put together,’ Heaphy said.
‘We hadn’t trained in the eight at all. We knew we were stronger and fitter than everyone else, but an eight takes time to get going. NUIG led us a good way and I think it was only in the last 500 metres we pulled away. I was glad it was a tough race because it means more when you have to work harder.
‘It was my last race for UCC, too, so it was great to be part of such a great team.’
Heaphy, who studied Law at UCC, was glad to get the chance to race at the nationals last weekend. She travelled to the Tokyo Olympics as the back-up to the Irish lightweight women’s double of Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen, and she was eager to get on the water and race before the year finished.
When the 2021 World Rowing Championships, which had been scheduled for Shanghai in October, were cancelled in July, Heaphy knew she had few opportunities left to race this year, so she made the most of the nationals last weekend and the Henley Regatta the previous weekend.
‘I was in Spain in the middle of the training camp ahead of the Olympics when I heard the World Championships were cancelled and I was so frustrated that was going to be my season over,’ she explained.
‘Then going to Tokyo and being the spare made me more agitated and anxious because I wasn’t racing. It’s annoying when you’re fitter than you have ever been and energised and pumped to race, but you can’t race. That’s why I really wanted to come home, race and get that out of my system and finish the season with something, and get some highs out of it.
‘We train all year around to race and it’s frustrating when you can’t but at least I finished off the season with some races.’
With the season now over, her short-term plan is to train at home in Skibb for a few weeks and take time to reflect and process a year of highs and lows.
Heaphy was one of several Skibbereen rowers in action for UCC last weekend. Olympic bronze medallist Emily Hegarty was part of the college’s victorious senior eight and also won the women’s senior pair alongside Tara Hanlon and the women’s senior four, too. The latter crew also contained Olympian Aoife Casey who was on the UCC eight crew as well, and also won the women’s double alongside Margaret Cremen; this is the combination that performed so well for Ireland at the Olympics. Paul O’Donovan, for UCC, helped the college win the men’s senior double sculls and quad titles.