Fintan McCarthy has described his teammate Paul O’Donovan as “an animal” after the Skibbereen rowers clinched a first gold medal for Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics.
The pair rowed themselves into Irish sporting history by winning the lightweight double sculls.
They pipped Germany and Italy to claim victory to collect Ireland’s first gold medal since 2012.
When asked post-race if there was any difficulty gelling since they became teammates, McCarthy said: “Not really, Paul is an absolute animal so it was handy enough to just sit behind him and try and emulate that.”
O’Donovan said the gold medal race on the Sea Forest Waterway panned out much as the Irish crew had anticipated.
“The Germans and the Italians always have the quick start, you can be sure of that, and for once then we had a good start. It hadn’t been for the lack of effort (until now).
“The rest of the time we weren’t going off fast, so it was a bit of a surprise when we did and we weren’t totally dropped in the first 500 metres. Then we just put the heads down and ploughed on.”
“Fintan said a few things to me during the race but you would be on auto pilot half the time,” insisted the double Olympic medallist.
He insisted there was never any sense the race was getting away from them, even though the Germans led until the 1500m mark.
“I don’t think there was any moment of panic. We were kind happy out with our position, like. We often have a big sprint at the end if we need it. So, we knew if we were sitting level or even a bit behind, we could pull something off. We were eking out a bit of a finish before the end so that was good.”
His immediate post-race celebrations had to be curtailed when he had to go to doping control. “That brings you right back down to earth,” he said.
Asked about how the win felt compared to his Rio silver which he achieved with his brother Gary, O’Donovan said he didn’t think too much about it.
“I mean, to be honest, that was five years ago. I rowed with the brother, I didn’t think too much about how I felt at the time, compared to how I’m feeling now.
“After winning gold medal here today, and a silver medal last time, I probably am a little hit happier because, as a kid, you’re dreaming of winning a gold medal. A silver medal is nice, but Fintan did the right job, straight to the top in his first Games so he must be pretty happy too.”
McCarthy said he was proud to bringing home the gold medal
“It’s really satisfying to have done it. Great to make everyone at home proud and put Ireland in the history books.”
O’Donovan insisted that the Covid-19 restrictions had not impacted on their preparations.
“I don’t think it’s been tough, at all to be honest. We were planning on rowing this year anyway. So when they didn’t cancel the whole thing it suited us, it fitted in with our plan. We got to spend a lot of time at home in Skibbereen, which we don’t usually get because we are away going to regattas.”
However, world champion Sanita Puspure suffered a shock exit in the Olympic semi-final.
A dreadful start proved her undoing and though she battled bravely through the middle section of the race she was unable to catch the four scullers ahead of her and trailed home in fifth place, nearly 11 seconds behind the winner Hanna Prakatsen from Russia.
Nine months short of her 40th birthday, Puspure will have to be content with an appearance in the B final in her third and almost certainly final Olympics.
It is a sad end to a marvellous career, which culminated post the 2016 Rio Olympics when she won world and European titles.
But the postponement of the Games last year proved a step too far for her. Her preparations were badly disrupted this year initially by injury and later illness and she didn’t compete in the European championship.