Three years ago, Rowing Ireland chief executive Michelle Carpenter made a bold prediction about their representation on Team Ireland’s flight to the Tokyo Olympics.
“Everyone thought we were crazy,” she says of that 2019 statement which targeted qualifying between five and seven Irish boats for the Games.
It turns out she was anything but.
Yesterday morning, in the Swiss sunshine, the women’s four and the lightweight women’s double both qualified boats for Japan this summer. That brings the overall tally to six boats, a record in itself for the sport in Ireland.
Carpenter said the achievement was due “to hard work, determination and dedication” in trying circumstances.
“It has been a difficult 12 months with isolation of our team and coaching staff and we are ecstatic about the results.
“We have now raised the bar and with less than 70 days to Tokyo the focus will now be on results there.”
The quartet of Emily Hegarty, Eimear Lambe, Aifric Keogh and Fiona Murtagh justified their favouritism when winning their Olympic qualification regatta in Lucerne with China and Italy filling out the podium.
“We’re absolutely relieved,” Lambe told World Rowing’s official website “It’s been a long time coming. Although on paper we were probably one of the favourites, anything can happen on the water. We are so happy.”
But the drama of the morning wasn’t over. Soon afterwards the lightweight women’s double team of Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen took third — and the last remaining spot — behind the United States and Switzerland in their final to secure their ticket to Tokyo.
A jubilant Casey said: “It’s so surreal because I feel like we’ve worked so hard the past two to three years. We came in as underdogs. It just shows what you can do. We came from behind and all we wanted to do was do our best and we are so happy.”
Rowing Ireland’s high-performance director, Antonio Maurogiovanni, was thrilled with the results which he believes are important not just for Tokyo but for the Paris Games in three years time.
“We have six boats confirmed and qualified for Tokyo, and we continue to train and prepare for the upcoming Olympics.
“Having these six crews qualified at the next Tokyo Olympic Games has put Ireland in a very challenging and exciting position not just for Tokyo but also for Paris 2024.
“As we all know, this is also year 1 of the 2024 cycle and the current Rowing Ireland squad, if well supported, has everything to keep the fantastic momentum going. Behind these results, there is a huge amount of systematic work of athletes, coaches, and administrators that need to be reinforced and more supported to consolidate the current level.”
Irish Results: M1x: Daire Lynch, (4th, A/B semi-final); W4: Emily Hegarty, Eimear Lambe, Aifric Keogh & Fiona Murtagh, (1st -Final); LW2x: Aoife Casey & Margaret Cremen, (3rd, final).