BY SARAH DINEEN
SKIBBEREEN’S fantastic five rowers all impressed in the opening day of World Rowing Cup II in Poznan, Poland earlier, qualifying for the next round of their events.
First up Denise Walsh, who won a silver medal at the Europeans last month, qualified directly to the A/B semi-final of the lightweight women’s single sculls after finishing second in her heat.
Denise finished just behind rival Patricia Merz from Switzerland in heat three, and over three and a half seconds ahead of Poland’s Joanna Dorociak and the remainder of the field lagging behind. Skibbereen Rowing Club star Denise will race again on Saturday morning in a bid to reach the ultimate A final and remain in medal contention.
Also, the Irish lightweight men’s pair of Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan from Skibbereen won their ‘exhibition race’, taking the top spot over Brazil and Great Britain, the only other competitors in the event on this occasion. This race was a contest for the best lanes in Sunday’s A final, for which all three crews automatically qualify.
Although a medal is guaranteed for the Irish pair on finishing the final race, they will undoubtedly be out to claim another gold to add to their European triumph last month.
Finally the well-known lightweight men’s double of Gary and Paul O’Donovan (Skibbereen/UCD) avoided the repechage route following a stunning win in the first of two heats in the event, where only the top boat would qualify directly. The O’Donovan brothers made sure of their place in the A final, taking the lead before the first 1000m had been covered and retaining it for the duration of the race thereafter, eventually finishing over two seconds ahead of nearest rivals China in second and Poland third. The A final will take place at 10:03am (Irish time) on Sunday.
Also, in the women’s single sculls both Old Collegian’s Sanita Puspure and Killorglin’s Monika Dukarska are through to the semi-finals after coming through the repechage this afternoon.
Ireland also had an entry in the women’s pair (heavyweight) for the first time in a number of years, and Aifric Keogh of UCC alongside UCD’s Aileen Crowley placed fourth in a tough heat, meaning a repechage Saturday morning to determine either an A or B Final on Sunday.