Northern Irish rowers Rebecca Shorten, Hannah Scott and Rebecca Edwards emerged from their Olympic debuts with mixed feelings.
There was heartbreak for Shorten’s women’s four who held a podium position for the majority of their race but faded and missed the medals by more than a second.
Belfast’s Shorten, Harriet Taylor, Rowan McKellar and Karen Bennett made a fast start from lane one but were caught by Ireland in the final throes.
They ended 1.06 short of the Olympic podium and a full five seconds behind the Australian boat who won gold in 6:15.37, an Olympic best time.
Bennett said: “Obviously, it was really gutting we didn’t medal, but we did our best race out there.
“We have not really been together for that long. So I think we should be really proud of that performance. It is just really frustrating and gutting, that our performance was only good enough for 4th rather than 3rd.
“You want something to show for everything you have been through. We are all going to be gutted and thinking what if.
“I’m just devastated but at the same time, I have got them and we have all the support we need.”
Their despair meant joy though for the Irish crew of Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty.
They are the first Irish female rowers to secure Olympic medals – indeed, they were only the second ever Irish female crew to compete in an Olympic final.
“We knew we could win a medal, it was just about whether we could pull it off,” Keogh said.
“We knew every crew in the boat was also capable of winning a medal and it was just about who got down the course as well as they could in position. It was a bit touch and go. Throughout the race I was like, ‘we could be fourth, fifth.’
“Eimear makes the strategy calls and I tell us where we are in the field. I was looking out and I was like, ‘Oh god,’ in my head, we were slipping back but we said to ourselves if that happens we go early and the last kilometre we backed ourselves.”
There was a degree of retribution for Scott and the women’s quad scullers who took a dominant victory in the B final, meaning seventh place overall .
The second youngest crew in the event behind France with an average age of just over 22, Coleraine-born Scott, Lucy Glover and Mathilda and Charlotte Hodgkins-Byrne took victory by nearly four seconds.
“If we hadn’t done that I think we would have been more unsatisfied,” said Scott after the crew finished third in their heat and then fourth at the repechage, where two-last chance spots in the medal final were available.
“I don’t think we quite showed what we had in the first part of the regatta, but I am really proud we got ourselves to this point today and pulled us through.
“What we learned from the regatta, is something that will live with me for the rest of my time in rowing.”
Aughnacloy’s Edwards was part of a Women’s eight that was billed as a project boat for British Rowing with a target to produce a strong result at the next Games, Paris 2024. Their Olympic campaign ended with fifth place in the repechage.
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