Team Ireland rowing gold medalists Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy returned to the country on Sunday morning after competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The pair won the Men’s Lightweight Double Sculls on Thursday morning, pulling past the Germans in the second half of the race after their main opposition got off to a strong start.
The win and gold medal rounded up a dominant Olympic campaign for the duo, who came first in all three of their races in the event.
Paul’s latest medal adds to the silver he won with brother Gary at Rio in 2016 as part of Team Ireland and several world championship gold medals.
Paul has not felt that the medal is too different from the others he has picked up throughout his career.
“We are always trying to be the best we can be,” he said.
“We’d be sitting down with Dominic [Casey] and planning out training, and we are constantly adjusting stuff. Then to go out and do the test gives a nice confirmation that you’ve done a good job and are on the right track.”
Casey coached the pair at the Games and added to the Skibbereen connection the rowers have.
The coach, who also oversaw the silver medal in Rio, is a member of the club O’Donovan and McCarthy both hail from – Skibbereen Rowing Club.
The duo feels that the hard work that is put in behind-the-scenes is what has helped them succeed, adding that there is no special quality that sets them apart from the rest.
The down-to-earth confidence that the pair have is also visible in Casey’s approach to the sport, with O’Donovan noting that their coach’s main concern after the gold medal race was “getting the boat to rig.”
McCarthy was one of many who watched his clubmates win the silver medal five years ago and is starting to come to terms with his rise to prominence since then.
“It definitely helped me to get to where I am today because that I saw that it was possible,” said McCarthy.
“It gave me a lot of motivation just to keep going with it. We were doing similar enough training, we had the same coach, so it was pretty clear that it was a winning formula.
“We don’t get many opportunities to race, most of what we do is training so you really need to enjoy the training, enjoy the journey.”
However, now is a time for the journey to be paused momentarily, to relax and recover from their long period of Olympic preparation.
The duo returned home to Skibbereen as world champions and have plans that don’t include rowing on their mind for now.
O’Donovan will return to his studies at UCC where he is taking a degree in medicine.
The two-time Olympic medalist said that he believes the mic of rowing and college can help his longevity.
“I’d be looking forward to getting back to college life. A couple of months at this stage to catch up with all of the lads again.
“Too much of the rowing…I just get too consumed in it. It’s good for me to take a break.”