Ireland’s facilities and support miles behind, warns rowing chief

Rowing Ireland are “miles behind” their competitors in terms of capital and staff despite success at the World Championships, says CEO Michelle Carpenter.

Ireland’s facilities and support miles behind, warns rowing chief

By James O’Connor

Rowing Ireland are “miles behind” their competitors in terms of capital and staff despite success at the World Championships, says CEO Michelle Carpenter.

Ireland won two golds at the World Championships last weekend, and Carpenter is hoping this success will spark investment into their organisation.

“I hope we see positive results from this weekend, whether it be a sponsor or investment, we need some support as we embark on the journey of Tokyo 2020.

“We are second in the world in the rowing standings. That is an incredible statistic but when you compare us to the countries we’re competing against with regards to facilities and staff, we’re miles behind.

The Australians, for example, everything about their set-up was a step above ours. They had a dietician, a marquee for their players to rehydrate and get ready, it gives them the upper hand, without a doubt.“The gap in that regard is huge, but that just shows how much commitment our team have and how much our rowers are overachieving.

This comes in the light of the Government only allocating Rowing Ireland €90,000 out of a requested €175,000 ahead of Tokyo 2020. To put that in perspective, a new lightweight double boat can cost €30,000 on its own.

This being considered, for Sanita Puspure and the O’Donovan brothers to achieve gold is a great achievement, but greater things are possible, Carpenter says.

“I completely compliment Sporting Ireland for what they’ve done, they have supported us throughout the years, and I understand it’s complicated, but our team manager took two weeks off work to be here, I’m still over here (Bulgaria) for World Rowing meetings.

“We’ve got three staff in the National Rowing centre. Trying to organise these trips, get flights and equipment, bring enough people over to help, it’s very hard with such little numbers. That’s credit to the people we have working here now.”

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross has said the department “won’t be found wanting” if they are asked for additional funds for Irish Rowing to prepare for Tokyo 2020.

“It’s being said that more capital will be available for us after this win and that they won’t be found wanting if capital is required, but that’s not the answer to all of our problems.

“Of course we need capital, but we need more numbers working for Rowing Ireland and more support while going to these events and competing with the best in the world,” Carpenter said in response.

It’s impossible to know whether the support and help will come, but I’ll take this opportunity to look for a sponsor. We’re a very clean sport, great athletes and high achievers, we are a solid organisation through and through.

“To achieve what we know we can on our road to gold in Tokyo 2020, we need to get a sponsor soon. It’s only a year and a half away. We now have 25,000 kids rowing in school, with the sport growing, the measures must be in place to allow it to grow.”

After years of struggle, Sanita Puspure was one of Ireland’s gold medalists, a moment that Carpenter will cherish.

I’m absolutely ecstatic. It’s an amazing achievement that we competed at such a high level. For Sanita, I’ve been working with her since 2014, and to see how far she’s come and watch her stand on the podium was unbelievable.

“I was in tears, my legs were shaking watching it.

“My daughter rang me saying that she was inspired and wanting to go out and practise now. The team is so closely knit and that makes is special.”

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