Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy power to historic Olympic gold rowing medal

The Skibbereen duo overpowered their closest German challengers, and the rest of the field, in racing to Olympic immortality in six minutes and six seconds
Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy power to historic Olympic gold rowing medal

Fintan McCarthy and Paul O'Donovan celebrate after winning gold. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Skibbereen duo Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy have won a historic Olympic gold rowing medal for Ireland in Tokyo.

The favourites overpowered their closest German challengers, and the rest of the lightweight men's double sculls field, in racing to Olympic immortality in six minutes and six seconds.

It marks Ireland's second medal of the Games, after bronze for the women's four, and completes their own set of medals, with Paul adding gold to his silver medal from Rio, won alongside his brother Gary.

"It feels really good," Fintan told RTÉ after crossing the line. 

"It is bizarre, I have been pretty chilled out all day. Usually, I would be a bit more nervous. I felt really prepared and you know how that expectation and stuff doesn’t really weigh too heavily on us. We just do what we always do as best we can and it worked."

Fintan McCarthy and Paul O'Donovan celebrate after winning gold. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Fintan McCarthy and Paul O'Donovan celebrate after winning gold. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

The Irish crew maintained a steady pace throughout, reaching the 500m mark in third, behind Germany and Italy, but by halfway it was clear it would be Ireland v Germany for gold. O'Donovan and McCarthy edged ahead by 1,500m and they wore out the Germans in the sprint to the line, holding off the nearest challenges by 0.86 seconds, with Italy a further seven second back in third.  

"The race plan we had, we do it all the time and it seems to work out OK for us," said Paul. 

"We kind of know that Italy and Germany always go hard, you can count on that. Then they slow down a bit. Once we were catching up to them, we knew that we were at a sustainable pace and kept going. Germany made it hard for us, that’s for sure.

"I don’t really think about medals at all. We are just here trying to be the best we can be and hopefully, that will be the best of them. Today it was. We are pleased with it.

"As for my brother Gary (who travelled to Tokyo as a reserve), he might have been stuck on an airplane on the way home because he wasn’t going to be used by this stage. I don’t know whether he saw it or not but he wouldn’t be too put out by that I’d say.

"I’ve been ignoring my mother all the while (too) so she will be fairly annoyed when I get home. I’ll get the back of the hand across the face I’d say!

"You don’t really take in the history of the moment. You’d be well tired after the race."

Meanwhile, there was bitter disappointment for Sanita Puspure in the women's single sculls. The two-time world champion never kept the pace in her semi-final as she finished fifth, missing out on a place in the A final.

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