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Rio Olympics: Silver for Ireland! O'Donovan brothers do the country proud with amazing rowing final race

By Sean McGoldrick and Vincent Hogan

Brothers Gary and Paul O'Donovan from Skibbereen in County Cork have created Irish sporting history by winning a silver medal in the lightweight double sculls at the Olympic regatta in Rio. It is the first ever Olympic medal for Irish rowing.

After a dramatic final the Irish boat finished less than a second behind the new Olympic champions France with Norway in third place.

The Irish brothers made a characteristically slow start and were fourth after the 500m mark but only 1.41 seconds behind the French. They were still in fourth spot at the halfway stage but as they had done in the semi-final, they upped the ante at the business end of the race and were consistently travelling faster than any of the other two boats.

By the 1500m mark they were in the silver medal position and were hunting down the French who looked to be tiring. Now travelling at 18 kph the Irish boats was rapidly closing on the long time leaders but the French just held them off. Ireland finished second in 6.31.23.

It was a heroic and historic performance from the O'Donovan's who only starting to concentrate on the double sculls a couple of years ago but underlined their potential when they won the European championships earlier this summer.

The history making O'Donovan brothers have no intention of resting on their laurels despite the historic nature of their silver medal performance. Once again displaying their deadpan sense of humour, Gary said “Ah sure, it's been a good year,”

“It's been a great year. European champions and Olympic silver medallists. Hopefully there is more to come in the future.

"It was our goal since we qualified. We finished 11th in the world championships and our goal was to win the Olympics but we're not going home disappointed with a silver medal at all.”

According to Paul, they weren't too sure themselves about how the race was unfolidng.

"We didn't know too much of what's going on but the French are a brilliant side. They just had a bit more left in the last 100m and they pulled away. They had a fantastic race and are great guys. We're happy with our result.”

The duo also spoke of their joy at being history makers in Rio.

"Still a bit tired to be even thinking of emotions to be honest with you" said Paul. "But we're very happy."

"We're delighted to be Ireland's first ever Olympic medallists in rowing" explained Gary. "We tried to win the gold medal and we really, really gave it everything out there, but we're delighted to come home with any medal at all and a silver is fantastic.

"We wanted to really go as fast as we could but stuck right in the middle of the race and then move on in the second-half. I think we did that quite well. We knew last year when we qualified that we'd have to beat a very very good French crew that won the World Championships last year.

"Since then, they've gone and made their crew stronger again. So to come so close to beating them and come home with a silver medal is a brilliant result for us."

Irish Independent

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