By Daragh Ó Conchúir
It was a mixed bag for the Irish on the official opening day of action at the Rio Olympics, with Sanita Puspure getting proceedings off to an excellent start in the women’s single sculls.
Puspure qualified from the third heat but while on the face of it, her progress was serene, it was not without its worries as the 34-year-old mother-of-two battled what she termed with a laugh afterwards as “ridiculous” conditions.
The Latvian native, who emigrated to Ireland in 2010 and competed at the London Olympics in the green singlet two years later, had to row one-handed at one juncture, to keep her boat in the right lane.
The most open section of the course was the middle third, leading to extremely choppy waters, and Puspure showed all her experience to maintain her composure, particularly with the Canadian Carling Zeeman bulleting off into a huge lead.
Zeeman won by 30 seconds but with the top three getting through, it seemed an unnecessary waste of energy, even if some of that gap might have been accentuated by Puspure’s difficulties.
Egyptian Nadia Negm did edge past entering the final kilometre but the Irish rower cruised past in controlled fashion to secure the quarter-final berth.
The first ever Irish hockey team to compete under the tricolour were desperate to add to their history-making exploits against India but fell agonisingly short in a 3-2 defeat.
Craig Fulton’s crew looked nervous early on and fell two goals behind but John Jermyn made himself the answer to a quiz question by firing the nation’s first Olympic goal.
India replied eight minutes later as Rupinder Pal converted his second penalty corner but Ireland piled on the pressure from there to the end.
Conor Harte poked home a goal to make it interesting late on and Fulton replaced goalkeeper David Harte with an outfield player for the last two minutes, but despite finishing a man light due to a yellow card, India held on.
The first of two days of the dressage element of eventing took place, with Irish riders Padraig McCarthy and Clare Abbott competing.
McCarthy and Simon Porloe were third into the ring and the Tipp man was entitled to be pleased with their efforts, recording a score of 46.80 penalties.
Abbott, who is a maths teacher and competes on a part-time basis, did excellently too, scoring 47 flat on Euro Prince.
That leaves Ireland lying in sixth, and McCarthy and Abbott in ninth and 10th at the time of writing, but there is a long way to go yet, with Jonty Evans (Cooley Rorkes Drift) and Mark Kyle (Jemilla) still to complete their tests tomorrow.
The dressage is traditionally the weakest element of the eventing disciplines for the Irish and if they are to improve on their fifth place finish of four years ago, and strive for the targeted medal, they will need to limit the damage before hitting the cross-country course and show jumping arena.
Nicholas Quinn finished fourth in his heat of the 100m breastroke in a time 1.01.29, which is his third best time at the distance.
That was not enough for the 23-year-old psychology student to make the top 16 qualifiers, as he finished 33rd, but he will not be too disgruntled by that, given that the 200m is his specialist distance and he was using this as a warm-up for the main event on Tuesday.
The cycling road race proved tremendously entertaining, although there was no luck in the end of the six-hour contest for the first cousins Nicolas Roche and Dan Martin.
The testing route included a host of category 2 climbs and there were many astute observers who felt that it might suit Martin in particular.
It wasn’t to be though and there was no luck either for Tour De France victor, Chris Froome of Great Britain, who was the hot favourite to prevail.
Instead the gold medal went to 31-year-old Greg Van Avermaet, the Belgian surviving a puncture after 71km and having the strength to power away in the end from Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark, with Rafal Majka from Poland claiming bronze.
There were a number of attacks throughout including one early on that secured a lead of more than eight minutes but it wasn’t until the final couple of hours that the tempo really stepped up.
Froome never appeared comfortable and it looked as if Vincenzo Nibali might take the honours for Italy late on but the fearless descender took one risk too many and came down 12km from the end. Columbia’s Sergio Henao was also involved in the crash and that left Majka out in front.
Van Avermaet and Fuglsang broke away from the chasing group of six and reeled in Majka, and it was the man with the profile of having the greatest speed who crossed the line with his arms raised.
Martin finished in 13th position with Roche back in 29th. In all, just 42 of the 144 starters survived the gruelling race.