Paul O’Donovan: I thought I should keep my promise

Another week, another chapter onto the O’Donovan legend.

Not satisfied by achieving what no Irish rower had ever done at the Olympics, Paul O’Donovan rowed a perfect regatta to add a World Championship gold medal in Rotterdam.

The lightweight single sculls heat, quarter-final, semi and final were all won in succession, more than living up to a promise he made in the days after taking Olympic silver.

“At the 500m left I remembered I told my friends when I was in Rio that I would win here by open water, so I thought I should probably keep my promise.

“Then at 200m to go I guess I started smiling a little.”

It wasn’t quite as dramatic in its delivery as his brother Gary’s promise to become an Olympian — told to friends outside a Cork nightclub in 2012 — but it showed a daring self-belief in his own superiority.

If anything, ‘open water’ was a slight underestimation.

The timekeepers recorded four seconds as the margin of victory but the race for gold ended the moment he sprinted into the lead with 750m to go. The only rower who attempted to match his relentless pace, last year’s silver medallist Rajko Hrvat, was so burned out for the final push that he fell through the field and into fourth place.

More than two boat-lengths separated O’Donovan and the field by the end.

Ireland’s first world champion Niall O’Toole hailed him as the “greatest Irish rower ever” on Twitter.

Although his celebrations in Rio were curtailed while Gary was “enjoying the rockstar lifestyle”, the addition of Ireland’s first World Championship medal since 2008, and first goal since 2002, will be appropriately hailed upon the O’Donovans return to Skibbereen tonight.

“It’ll be massive,” Paul told 96FM. “I’d say they’ll put an extension onto the town for the night. We’re a bit worried about what’s going to happen but we’ll take it as it comes.

“Sure it’ll all be a bit of craic anyway and hopefully everyone will enjoy it, and there’ll be some kids out that’ll enjoy it as well.

“They might take away something for future years, get a bit of inspiration.

“That’s what it’s all about, really.”

The O’Donovan brothers’ childhood friends, Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll, came fourth in their World final on Saturday. The lightweight men’s pair trailed home eight seconds behind a closely-bunched top-three. Ireland’s junior doubles were in B final action yesterday, with Emily Hegarty and Aoife Casey, daughter of Skibbereeen’s coaching mastermind, Dominic, finishing sixth, while Ronan Byrne and Daire Lynch came second.

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