After claiming silver in the men’s lightweight double sculls at the Games, Paul O’Donovan became a world champion in the men’s lightweight single sculls just over two weeks later.
The brothers were back in action at the Irish Open regatta earlier this month, winning the doubles title after Paul pipped Gary to gold in the A Final of the single sculls. And a trip to Boston last weekend saw Skibereen’s famous brothers claim another set of medals in the Directors’ Challenge Men’s Quads at the Head of the Charles Regatta.
With Paul studying for a degree in physiotherapy and Gary set to graduate this week with a marketing degree from CIT, the brothers claim they have been too busy to be swept up by their celebrity status following their Rio success.
“All we’ve ever known is rowing and racing and for us to get down to our training from one day to the next,” explained Gary, one of an ‘EggsOARdinary Pair of Rowers’, speaking in promotion of Bord Bia’s Quality Assured Eggs campaign.
“Go race the Irish Open, do the national trials – that’s just standard practice we’ve been doing since we started rowing,” continued the 23-year-old. “That’s just like normality for us, really.
“We’ve been having a great time. Since Rio, we’ve been having a blast. We also have to be realistic and understand that the World Championships are on in just under 12 months’ time. In order for us to do any way well there, we’re going to have to get back to our training and make that our priority.”
During a sitdown with the national media yesterday, the experience of other Olympic medallists such as Kenneth Egan was raised and the brothers were quizzed on the pressure or negative fallout success can bring – Egan’s struggle with celebrity news coverage and alcohol after his Beijing 2008 success having been well documented.
But 22-year-old Paul was in agreement with his sibling on how their everyday schedule has eased the burden of national fame. “I mean we’re pretty busy. You’re only at the Olympics for two weeks or whatever, so you spend in my case 22 years doing what you usually do and then two weeks at the Olympics,” said Paul.
“I don’t understand why people get that depression or a bit of a low afterwards because it’s a very short time and then you’re straight back to what you’re usually doing.
“What you usually do is so enjoyable before you even went to the Olympics that I was happy to get back to it.
“Since I came home from the World Championships I was back in college within two weeks and back at the training as well so I was just getting back to my usual life,” added the 22-year-old.
The brothers praised the influence of High Performance director Morten Espersen and club coach Dominic Casey for aiding their post-Rio adjustments, while the brothers’ success is also set to see their Sport Ireland/Government grant funding climb to €40,000 each.
Sport Ireland’s carding scheme had meant the pair received €12,000 each in funding this year following their 2015 performances, but neither brother was unhappy they were not previously on the highest grant.
Paul said: “We just accepted it and got on with the job and did the best we can with the available funds. That just kind of shows that money, it can help, but it’s not the be all and end all if you do have the right attitude and you get on with the business regardless,” added the younger O’Donovan.
When quizzed on whether they believe a more extended set funding scheme should be put in place over the course of a four-year Olympic cycle, Gary said: “As long as we can get by from one day to the next, put fuel in the car, put food on the table and get our training done, as long as we have enough money to do that everything else is irrelevant.
“We just want to go rowing and do the best that we can, try and win a gold medal next time in whatever race it is.”
The financial health and general popularity of rowing seems a more pressing concern for the brothers.
“The amount of kids all over the country, especially in Skibbereen Rowing Club, we’ve noticed it a lot,” said Gary on the sport’s growing popularity. “Almost every youngster in our area is taking an interest and they all want to give it a go.
“We’ve been hearing that a lot of clubs around the country are having huge numbers wanting to start rowing. That’s great. It’s really encouraging for us to hear. It’s really encouraging for us to hear that what we’ve done has inspired a lot of new young kids to try out the sport that we love.”