While the years of arduous training has given the O’Donovan brothers the edge to overcome mental challenges, they stress that they always try to inject a bit of fun into everything they do.
The World Championship gold medal-winning rowers Gary and Paul O’Donovan told the crowd at a homecoming event at the National Rowing Centre in Co Cork over the weekend that for them, rowing was pure enjoyment. They claim that they don’t even notice the heavy training because it is part and parcel of life.
Gary said that, when he was growing up, rowing was always about “having fun”, while Paul was more competitive in his mindset.
He was a bit serious about rowing and training and stuff but I used to go there because my best friends were there and I liked hanging out with them,” said Garry. “Now that we are taking it very seriously we always make sure to make a conscious effort to enjoy it and have a bit of fun doing it.
Paul said it was reasonably easy to balance training with “the old social life”.
“You spend so long doing it that most of your friends are involved in rowing so when you are going training there is a social aspect to it which is pretty good,” he said. “We go to college as well during the day so we have different friends there not involved in rowing.”
Gary and Paul won gold in the lightweight double sculls at the World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The West Cork men were in an outside lane and wrestled the win from the Italians bursting in to the lead with 500m of the 2km course to go.
Meanwhile, when asked by a young if they had ever been “greeted” by President Michael D Higgins, Gary said they had gone to the Áras where they not only met the President but his two amazing dogs who, he joked, were “bigger than him”.
We went up to visit him in his house and we met his two dogs,” said Gary. “He has the coolest dogs, if you ever have a chance to see them. He has two massive dogs. They are like bigger than him.
The children asking the questions were the biggest stars of the show, with the rowers getting a major grilling. The probe involved being asked whether they drank too much coffee and “what they did for a living outside rowing”.
In addition to marking the ongoing success of Gary and Paul, Saturday’s event also celebrated the achievements of Cork-based Sanita Puspure, who took gold in the women’s single skull, as well as Emily Hegarty and Aifric Keogh, who took part in their first world championship final as a pair, finishing a very credible sixth.
When asked if she was interested in coaching when she retires, Sanita said she already coaches and finds it enjoyable. She joked to the young crowd that its easier to train adults than kids because they listen more attentively.
When asked about what her alternative career would have been, Sanita said “she always wanted to be a doctor but missed that train”.
In response to another question, she said she would tell her 16-year-old self to be “a bit braver”.
The 36-year-old saw off the challenge of world champion Jeannine Gmelin of Switzerland and Magdalena Lobnig from Austria to claim first place.
Sanita puts her improvements this year down to eating more, on the advice of Sharon Madigan, head of performance nutrition at the Sport Ireland Institute.
“The programme changed, I started eating more — eat more and you’ll have more energy to train,” said Sanita, who is from Latvia but who lives in Ballincollig, Co Cork.