Mark O’Donovan playing it cool on 2018 plans

World and European champion Mark O’Donovan is happy to keep everyone guessing his next move after a dream year in which he and Shane O’Driscoll won every piece of gold available.

Paul Cotter, Mark O'Donovan and Eimear Scally at the 'Sporting A Better Diet' event, organised by APC Microbiome Institute for Cork Science Festival.

However, their lightweight pair category isn’t an Olympic class and, with an eye towards Tokyo 2020, O’Donovan has said the pair will strongly consider a move to the heavyweight class as they return to full training this month. Another option would be to vie with the O’Donovan brothers, Gary and Paul, for a place in the lightweight double sculls.

“Next year? Well, we’ve a few options, but I’m holding my cards close to my chest for now until decisions are made and we’ll see what comes about,” said O’Donovan. “Things are getting there, but we’ll let ye guess around for another little while longer.”

Ireland’s first world champion Niall O’Toole said during September’s world championships that he’d like to see the pair go up a weight class.

“I think everybody in Ireland would like to see them (Mark and Shane) go up a level to the heavyweight pair next year, where they have a great chance to go for the Olympic event if they put on a few extra kilos. They’re probably about 10 kilos off where they need to be as a heavyweight pair,” said O’Toole.

O’Donovan insists the pair’s achievement of clean sweeping the world and European championships and three World Cups didn’t take too long to sink in. Rather than be caught up by the past, they’re more excited about the future.

“It was a good achievement. I’m not sure has a lightweight pair ever won every single race in the season — all the world cups, Europeans and worlds. We were delighted with it, but we’re just more excited to go back training, see what we can do next year and see our new challenges ahead, and what way that’s all going to pan out,” said O’Donovan, who has a masters in sports performance from UL.

He was speaking at the Cork Science Festival event ‘Sport, Nutrition and the Microbiome’ at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, where he touched on the challenges of making weight, saying he had come into the racing season “too lean”.

“Basically, for us, the more you eat, within reason, the better the quality of your training session will be. If I go into a training session a little bit depleted, I’m not going to be able to push as hard as I can. Absolutely, [I’ve done it wrong making weight], all the time. You learn from your mistakes. Making weight is quite natural to me and I know how to do it. Throughout the winter, I try to put on a few kilogrammes of muscle and fat. I was a little too lean this year coming into the racing period and if you’re at that too long, your immune system and some other markers are going to be down. In my scenario, my cholesterol was high, so I had to eat more, but I also had to make weight, which was quite a shock for me,” said O’Donovan, who had returned from a “very, very bad result” in London at the Fours’ Head of the River on the Thames, alongside O’Driscoll, Gary O’Donovan and Niall Kenny, finishing 15th due to a technical problem that led to a “steering issue”.

Unsurprisingly, he said one bad result is “one too many, really, if you ask me”.

Training begins in earnest this week.

“We took a bit [of a break]. We still did a few races: Boston and London. Training was interrupted quite a bit, but we’ll be back into it fairly solid now from Tuesday.

“We always have these little races coming up and even trials, so there’s always something to have a short-term goal to keep you tipping along. You never get stale, so it’s good that way.”


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