Sanita Puspure powers to World Championship semi-finals

By Robert Treharne Jones

A day of mixed fortunes for Ireland at the World Championships, in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, saw a dominant performance by single sculler Sanita Puspure, who recorded the fastest time of her event.

But there was disappointment for the lightweight men’s quad and the women’s double scull, who missed qualification at their first attempt but will have another chance in the repechages.

Puspure came into this regatta with Ireland High Performance Director Antonio Maurogiovanni hoping she might make the final.

After finishing fourth, yet again, at least year’s world championships in Florida, she has had a remarkable season, finishing second at the World Cup regattas in Belgrade and Lucerne.

And after blowing away the opposition in yesterday’s heat, there is the very real prospect that the Old Collegians sculler might make the World Championship podium for the first time in her career. The field in her heat included Fie Udby Erichsen of Denmark, the silver medallist at London 2012, and Lovisa Claesson of Sweden, the current U23 world champion.

But Puspure shot off the blocks to lead by clear water after just 100m, and went on to cross the line 14 seconds clear of Erichsen, with Claesson third. Her time of 7 mins 25.78 secs was eight seconds inside the time set by Jeannine Gmelin, the world title holder from Switzerland.

Afterwards, Puspure was characteristically understated about her race.

It was simple — I got off the start and kept going. It wasn’t very pretty, as the wind was swirling around, but I tried to do my best. I’s great for my confidence, but I can’t be dwelling on it,” she added.

With just the winner of each heat qualifying directly, Puspure has now earned a break until Friday’s semi-finals while the other athletes get a second chance to qualify in the repechages in the coming days.

But Ireland’s less experienced crews had a tough day, with both the lightweight men’s quad and the women’s double scull missing the cut. The quad includes four athletes from the squad which contested the U23 World Championships two months ago in Poznan. Andrew Goff and Ryan Ballantine, from the quad which took silver behind Italy, have been selected alongside Fintan and Jacob McCarthy, the twins who reached the A final in the double scull at the same regatta. 

Once again it was Italy who dominated, but this time it was their senior crew, the European champions, who led throughout to qualify directly for Friday’s final. Ireland hung on grimly, but despite posting the fastest final split they finished third behind the Czech Republic.

In the women’s double scull Monika Dukarska and Aileen Crowley of Killorglin started well, and the crowd were looking forward to seeing them emulate the women’s pair, Aifric Keogh and Emily Hegarty, who qualified for the semi-finals in Sunday’s programme.

But despite sharing the lead with Germany and Canada after 500m Dukarska and Crowley began to fade down the second quarter. Race leaders Germany also faltered past the halfway mark, as Canada took on the lead, with the Netherlands coming through the field to take the second qualifying slot. 

Both crews face their repechages tomorrow while today’s programme sees just one Irish crew in contention, as Aoife Case and Denise Walsh get their second chance to qualify the lightweight double scull.

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