SKIBBEREEN Rowing Club’s newest European champions have vowed not to take their success for granted as they gather momentum on the road to Rio.
Lisheen brothers Gary (23) and Paul (22) O’Donovan – and their coach Dominic Casey – made national headlines earlier this week after they rowed to a fantastic victory in the ‘A’ final of the men’s lightweight double sculls at the European Rowing Championships in Brandenburg – but the Skibbereen siblings will not rest on their laurels in this Olympic year.
On Tuesday, two days after winning gold medals at the Europeans, Olympic Games-bound Gary and Paul were back training for their next event, the second World Cup regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland, at the end of the month. They won silver medals at the first World Cup regatta in Varese, Italy last month.
‘It was fantastic last Sunday. To hear the national anthem playing for us was a surreal moment. When you think that we finished fifth at the European Championships last year to winning the ‘A’ final last Sunday, we’re delighted with it and the progress we’ve made,’ a thrilled Gary told The Southern Star earlier this week.
‘There was no partying or anything like that after the race. Once we finished with the podium on Sunday it was all about recovery and we spent some time pedalling on the bikes to cool down and unwind. We know this is just another step along the road to where we want to be for the Olympics.
‘We are in a good position now because we know we are able to win medals. We will work hard to try and reproduce those performances to get us back on the podium.
‘I don’t think there is a pressure on us now to keep doing well. The only pressure on us comes from the two of us. We are trying to get the most out of every day, whether that’s rowing or recovery, and it’s hard to say exactly how much more we can improve. We will try and do everything to the very best we can and see where that takes us.’
This was the first time an Irish crew has won a gold medal at the European Rowing Championships, and the first time Skibbereen rowers have medalled at the event.
Level-headed and staying grounded after last weekend’s terrific European triumph, and deciding to put any homecoming on hold as they want to remain focused, Gary pointed out that some of the world’s top crews didn’t compete, so bigger challenges lie ahead in the coming months, starting with Lucerne in two weeks’ time.
But Gary and Paul can take huge confidence from their start to the season, winning silver and gold medals in their last two international regattas.
‘The Olympics in the summer is the big one but winning the Europeans is a great stepping stone,’ Gary said.
‘To think we’re beating some of the top crews in the world – the Norwegians won the bronze medal at the World Championships last year when we finished 11th – is a massive confidence boost as it shows we are in contention with the best.
‘We’ll keep training as hard as we can for the next few regattas,’ he insisted, ahead of a busy month for the brothers with end-of-year college exams looming for the duo, in CIT (Gary) and UCD (Paul).