DENISE Walsh is adamant that she’ll learn and improve from her 2017 World Rowing Championships experience in Florida.
The Skibbereen woman (24) won her heat and her A/B semi-final to qualify for the A final of the women’s lightweight single sculls – but she finished sixth here, missing out on a medal that had seemed within her reach in the lead-up.
‘The worlds were going really well up until then,’ she said.
‘The A final didn’t really work out the way that I had planned, which was more annoying than anything.
‘I’d have been happier with sixth if I felt that I rowed my best race ... but I didn’t.
‘Maybe I extended a bit too much energy during the week. I didn’t necessarily need to win my semi-final.
‘As well as that I didn’t really row as well in the final. I’d had a few niggles too that didn’t really help matters. Whatever way I started the race, I felt my legs weren’t coming with me. It just didn’t happen on the day.’
As disappointing as the A final turned out, Denise will learn from the experience.
‘Don’t let other outside influences influence you – that’s the lesson that I am taking from it all,’ she said.
‘Other people have expectations for me, and after I won my heat and the semi-final, people expected me to win a medal. I have to focus on myself, block everything else out, and I know I’m going to be a better rower for it.’
Expectations of Irish rowers competing at international events has risen considerably within the past 12 months because of the success of Skibbereen Rowing Club’s elite oarspeople, including Gary and Paul O’Donovan, Shane O’Driscoll, Mark O’Donovan and Denise Walsh herself, who won a silver at the European Rowing Championships in May.
‘The standard is so high now,’ she said.
‘Go back a few years and if you were in the top 12 or even made an A final, people saw that as an achievement – but now it’s gone up another level.
‘The expectation has changed, and that’s brilliant. We’re no longer happy to just qualify for finals, we want to win the medals and that’s great for Irish rowing.’
Denise, Mark, Shane and Paul were given a heroes’ welcome in Skibbereen last Sunday evening after their heroics at the world championships in Florida, as Mark and Shane won gold in the lightweight pair, and Paul defended his world lightweight single title.
‘It was lovely seeing the big crowd there, especially all the young kids in their club gear from Skibbereen Credit Union; they looked great,’ Denise said.
‘It means a lot to see how what we do has such an impact on the people at home.’