Eight crews competed for Ireland on the second-last day of the World Rowing Championships here in Belgrade, and the team in green came away with gold and bronze medals and a hugely creditable Olympic qualification spot for the lightweight women’s double.
Margaret Cremen and Aoife Casey had to win their B Final, which was full of talent. What nerves there were they used to drive them on after a tough year. Casey had overcome a gym accident just prior to the lightweight camp in Spain, and when they got to the semi-final here they had just lost out on an A Final spot.
They raced confidently and well in the B Final. France faltered, but it was hardly decisive. Casey and Cremen were bent on that winning spot and they got it.
The men’s lightweight double banished doubts about their status with their A Final win. Switzerland’s Jan Schaeuble and Raphael Ahumada Ireland will not let them rest, but Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy were game for the fight. Their last 500 metres was stunning; they stood up for the World Championship gold they deserve. Italy’s Stefano Oppo and Gabriel Soares took the bronze (see picture).
Interestingly, Mexico won the B Final to qualify their boat for Paris.
The Ireland men’s pair cited the achievement of the lightweight double in 2016 (then the O’Donovan brothers) in the aftermath of their surprise bronze medal. It was no shock to 23-year-old Nathan Timoney and 24-year-old Ross Corrigan. The Fermanagh men explained that while they are together only three months in this configuration, they targeted this race from early on. The doubled down on their gritty and brave performance in the semi-final, leading out the field in the final, and only conceding gold and silver to Switzerland and Britain late on.
Ireland’s two other A Finalists, the women’s pair of Aifric Keogh and Fiona Murtagh and the PR2 mixed double of Steven McGowan and Katie O’Brien finished fourth and fifth, respectively. They had qualified their boats for the Paris Olympics and Paralympics by fighting their way to this elevated stage.
The women’s four – Natalie Long, Imogen Magner, Sanita Puspure and Eimear Lambe – took third in their B Final. It looks like this might be Puspure’s last Worlds; she won two World Championship golds in the single scull.
The men’s quadruple ended on a high, with a win in their C Final. The men’s four took third in theirs.