Skibbereen pair pushing hard for Rio Olympics

There were encouraging Irish performances at the World Rowing Championships yesterday, although the final mood will be determined after the Olympic roll call is finalised this weekend.

Best of all came in the second race as the Skibbereen duo of Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll held off a fast-finishing Spanish crew to win the men’s lightweight pair B final, ranking 7th overall in the event.

Ireland bravely took over the front-rowing from the Czechs before halfway and eventually cross the line 15-hundreths of a second ahead of Spain.

It was a fine result which their clubmates Paul and Gary O’Donovan will hope to match today (11:20am) as they battle it out in the B final of the lightweight men’s double sculls, which is an Olympic-qualifying event.

Following the O’Donovans at 11:30am will be Claire Lambe and Sinead Jennings. Ireland’s competitors in the lightweight women’s double sculls B final also need to avoid last place to gain Olympic qualification but will fancy their chances as the only crew to break seven minutes in their semi-final.

Sanita Puspure will have to secure a top-three finish in tomorrow’s women’s single sculls B final (11;50am) in order to guarantee her passage to Rio 2016. Puspure was off to a slower start in her semi-final yesterday, although she did overhaul Zimbabwe’s Micheen Thornycroft to finish fifth.

China’s Jingli Duan won that race, comfortably followed into the A final by Olympic champion Miroslava Knapkova and America’s Genevra Stone.

However the B final will be no easy task, with the likes of European bronze medallist Tatsiana Kukhta of Belarus also challenging for the Olympic spots.

The Irish Women’s Four of Aifric Keogh, Monika Dukarska, Leonora Kennedy and Barbara O’Brien finished at the back of the five-boat field in their A final. The American team, including Kildare-born Kristine O’Brien, were convincing gold-medal winners.

Lisa Dilleen and Helen Hannigan won their D final of the women’s double sculls to place 19th overall, while Denise Walsh earned 14th place in the lightweight women’s single sculls.

Coleraine’s Joel Cassells helped Great Britain to gold in the men’s lightweight pair as Britain’s three golds and six silvers see them top the medal table so far.

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