Skibbereen’s Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist, Paul O’Donovan, added a World Championship gold medal to his CV at the 2016 World Rowing Championships in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
This is the first World Championship title for the Corkman who finished ahead of Hungary’s Peter Galambos and Lukas Babac of Slovakia after setting a high stroke rate pace in the head wind conditions.
O’Donovan made a tentative start to the final, and was last of the six boats after 500m. When Slovenian Rajko Hrvat burst into the lead the Skibbereen man quickly followed him, and he was already second at the halfway point.
The Olympic silver medallist went to the front 250m later, and eventually caught up with Hrvat; the Irishman was then a length clear of his competitors heading for the last 500m.
As Hrvat faded, Hungary’s Peter Galambos and Slovakia’s Lukas Babac came through for the minor medals, but there was no catching O’Donovan, who finished four seconds clear of the field in a time of 7.32.84.
Commenting on his performance, the 22 year old said: “The first stroke was bad, but then the second one was good so I went from there. At the 500m left I remembered I told my friends when I was in Rio that I would win here by open water, so I thought I should probably keep my promise. Then at 200m to go I guess I started smiling a little.”
O’Donovan’s victory ends an incredible few weeks for Irish rowing: the O’Donovan brothers won Ireland’s first ever Olympic medals in rowing, and Sinéad Lynch and Clare Lambe became the first ever Irish female crew to reach an Olympic final in Rio.
UCD Physiotherapy student, O’Donovan, is only the fourth Irish sculler to win a gold medal in an ‘A’ final at the World Championships, following the victories of Seán Drea in the heavyweight single sculls in 1975, and lightweights Niall O’Toole (1991) and Sinéad Lynch (2001).