Paul and Gary O’Donovan keep focus on Rio Olympics

Hype and hysteria wouldn’t find a welcome from Paul and Gary O’Donovan.

The Cork pair claimed gold at the European Rowing Championship lightweight double sculls in Germany with a stunning display in treacherous conditions on Sunday.

With an Olympic Games looming the brothers found themselves inundated with media requests and they fielded calls and mails throughout Monday morning.

It’s a double-edged sword: welcome exposure for their achievements versus intrusion into a training schedule which runs like clockwork.

Paul explained: “That extra interest from the media and the public because it is an Olympic year has been the big thing we have noticed.

“Everyone wants a piece of you and want you to do bits and pieces. But we have to keep ourselves grounded.

“We are in the thick of our season and we can’t have any distractions eating into our training times.

“We have two World Cup regattas and then we head to Spain for a three-week training camp to acclimatise for Rio. Our focus can’t be taken from that.”

The Skibbereen brothers are relative newbies to the world of elite lightweight double sculls. Their partnership only began in earnest in 2014.

Gary said: “We are only together at this level for the last two years. The Germans and the Norwegians crews we raced against on Sunday have been together since before the last Olympics in London. It has been a huge learning curve for us.

“Last year we were fighting to get into finals. Twelve months later we are fighting for medals.

“So our mindset about how we approach each race has changed dramatically. And that is the attitude that we will take to the Olympics.”

The elephant in the room. Rio. And talk of Brazil.

However, it seems that the rowing venue, Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, isn’t beset by the issues many other sports are facing in the host city.

Gary reported: “Last year they had the Junior Rowing World at the same venue and it proved to be a massive success which is very encouraging.

“One of the things they discovered was that there is a crosswind or headwind on the course.

“So when we are training at the National Rowing Centre we bear that in mind as we try to replicate the conditions.

“That is one of the positives about training in Ireland, we never lack for wind!”


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