Day of near misses for Irish but Olympic qualification hopes still alive

It was a day of narrow misses for the Irish crews at the World Rowing Championships, although Olympic qualification remains very attainable for three boats in France’s Lac d’Aiguebelette.

Two of those crews will battle it out in B finals, where only the last placed finisher will miss out on the Olympics, while Sanita Puspure seeks to make it back-to-back appearances at the Olympics in today’s single sculls semi-final.

According to Team Manager Morten Espersen, it’s an improvement from this time four years ago, when no Irish rower qualified via the World Championships.

“In the space of two years we’ve managed to get three crews into Olympic qualifying positions and that’s a huge step forward.

“When you look at some of the races, where two boats just missed out on the final, it could’ve been better but they have only been together very short times so there is some potential for improvement.

“It’s a good result and when they have the B final, that’s where the pressure will be on to qualify for the Olympics.” Sinead Jennings, who won Ireland’s last medal at the Worlds seven years ago, and Claire Lamb came closest to an A final, missing out by half a second in the lightweight women’s double sculls.

That duo were poised in the necessary top-three positions throughout but a remarkable comeback from Canada, taking their stroke rate to 43 per minute, saw them charge from last at halfway to first at the end of the 2,000m.

That squeezed Ireland out of the A final, finishing behind South Africa and Denmark in fourth. However it was a fine performance by a pair only put together three months ago.

The men’s lightweight pair of Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll and lightweight men’s double sculls, Gary and Paul O’Donovan, both finished fifth in their respective semi-finals.

The O’Donovan brothers made a bold push in their race but eventually finished six seconds behind third, settling for a place in the B final where, like Jennings and Lambe, they need a top-five finish to earn their ticket to Rio.

In their semi, O’Donovan and O’Driscoll passed China in the final stretch of their non-Olympic event to take fifth in a race won by the Great Britain pairing of Scotland’s Sam Scrimgeour and Joel Cassells from Antrim. The Irishmen will be back in the water early this morning (8:48am) for their B final.

Lisa Dilleen and Helen Hannigan will take part in the D final of the women’s double sculls this afternoon (4:05pm) after finishing fourth in a competitive C/D semi-final. However they will fancy their chances there, having finished in a time quicker than the winner of the other semi-final.

Denise Walshe will contest the C final of the Lightweight Women’s Single Sculls at 4:20pm after finishing third in her C/D semi-final.

Karol Doherty, meanwhile, finished fourth in the pararowing arms and shoulders single sculls C final in a time of 5:24.46.

Sanita Puspure will take her place in the semi-finals of the women’s single sculls at 10:19am, continuing in her bid to go one better than her fourth place last year. First she will have to finish in the top half of a semi-final that incudes current Olympic and European champion Miroslava Knapkova – a result that would also guarantee an Olympic berth.

Following Puspure into the water will be the Irish Women’s Four (Aifric Keogh, Monika Dukarska, Leonora Kennedy and Barbara O’Brien), who are in A final action at 10:50am.

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