Ireland’s newly crowned world lightweight double sculls champions Gary and Paul O’Donovan have scotched rumours that they won their recent gold using inferior equipment due to funding problems.
“I don’t know who came out with that. There was no truth to that rumour,” said Paul O’Donovan. “Boat manufacturers get myself and Gary a new boat every year so we’ve not had any worries.
“There is a little bit of funding issues with, say, other people that are coming into the team, and the junior and U23 teams, to make sure that their boats are up to standards.”
O’Donovan said this was to be expected given that Ireland’s rowing team “is expanding and there are so many more people fighting for Olympic qualifying places.
Maintaining a fleet of boats for everyone is the main issue, and that they (Rowing Ireland) can afford to send us all on training camps and get the right support around that.
His brother Gary said funding challenges are not unique to Irish Rowing.
“When you go all over the world, everyone seems to have similar issues. We can sit around and moan and cry, and complain that we don’t have this, that, and the other thing, but that’s not going to help us go faster,” he said.
“Everyone wants more money really, don’t they? Everyone is worried about funding but we won the World Championships and, if you threw millions and millions and millions at myself and Gary, there’s only a finite amount (of time improvements) that we can get back.”
He reiterated that it is funding for “the expanding team”, that is Rowing Ireland’s challenge right now.
The brothers won Olympic silver in Rio 2016 and have just added a world doubles title to the two single crowns that Paul had already accumulated.
Sanita Puspure also became world champion in the single sculls at the recent World Championships in Plovdiv.
Already qualified as a physiotherapist, Paul O’Donovan has just returned to UCC to study medicine through a four-year accelerated programme. He actually missed the opening two weeks of college because he was competing at the Worlds in Bulgaria.
Gary is training full-time and Paul looks likely to defer his studies to also train full-time in the final six to eight months ahead of the next Olympics in Tokyo.
Both have individual sponsorship deals with FBD Insurance, which announced a new sponsorship deal with the entire Irish Olympic team yesterday for Tokyo 2020.
Asked to rank their World gold against their Olympic silver, Paul O’Donovan said: “Winning the World Championship is probably a bigger achievement but the media makes [the Olympics] out to be such a big thing.
The challenge for us is exactly the same thing; it’s against the same crews and takes exactly the same amount of effort and training.
However, he confirmed that their final performance in Plovdiv was the greatest of their career and that they had been quietly optimistic beforehand.
“We do a lot of testing in the lab and on the rowing machine and our scores this year have been the best ever. We definitely knew coming into the summer, even from April, that we were hitting PBs. Then it was about transferring what we were doing indoors in the lab, to get that performance out of the boat.”