So, how long left until the Olympic Games in Tokyo?
There are just under 100 days to go to the Olympics that start on Friday, July 23rd and run until Sunday, August 8th.
It’s moving closer so, and how many West Cork athletes will be on the plane to Tokyo?
That’s a good question, and right now we don’t know for definite but we do know, between rowing and athletics, there’ll certainly be a few West Cork accents heard in Tokyo this summer.
Okay, rowing first – what’s the state of play here for West Cork rowers? Or, should I say, Skibbereen rowers.
So, the Irish lightweight men’s double is qualified for the Games, and right now two Aughadown men, Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy, are in the boat. The final Olympic selection hasn’t been confirmed yet, but given their European success last weekend it would be a major, major shock if these two weren’t given the nod for the double.
There’s a reason they’re one of the hot favourites for Olympic gold. Plus, Skibb’s rowing guru Dominic Casey is their coach.
What does this mean for Gary O’Donovan?
Gary’s not in the double but the likelihood is that he will travel to Tokyo as back-up to Paul and Fintan – and what an incredible reserve to be able to call on. He’s an Olympic medallist and former world champion. You see, the double is the only lightweight Olympic-category boat, while the single that Gary is in now is not an Olympic event.
Any more Skibbereen rowers in with a chance of making it to the Olympics?
Yes, yes there is. Emily Hegarty from Aughadown is part of the Irish women’s four that won silver at the European Rowing Championships. This boat will take part in the final Olympic qualification regatta in Lucerne next month where two places are up for grabs. Given what we saw last weekend in Varese, the Irish four has a great chance of booking their place at the Games.
Then there is the Irish lightweight women’s double that includes another Skibbereen rower, Aoife Casey. Aoife and Margaret Cremen finished fifth at the Europeans and are also going to the final Olympic qualification regatta with two spots up for grabs in their event, too.
Lots to play for in the weeks ahead so, and you mentioned we have West Cork athletes in the Olympic conversation too?
Yes. The Healy sisters, Phil and Joan, from Ballineen are both targeting the Games. Phil is in a terrific position to qualify in the 200 metres, and she is also eyeing up the 400 metres and the 4x400m mixed relay so, potentially, she could have a very busy Olympics. Joan is focussed on the 4x100m women’s relay team and helping them qualify for the Games.
Brilliant news, so what’s next for Phil and Joan?
The World Athletic Relays are on in Poland at the start of May – and both Phil and Joan will be in action there, trying to help their relay teams grab some of the qualifying spots up for grabs. Right now Phil is in Spain on a training camp while Joan, who had an Achilles niggle after the recent European Indoor Championships, is back up to full speed and training full tilt. Exciting times for everyone, and a lot to look forward to in the weeks ahead.