‘SHE was a natural from day one. She had a unique talent. She is a phenomenal athlete,’ declared Skibbereen Rowing club captain Sean O’Brien after local rower Emily Hegarty was part of the Irish team who won a bronze medal at the Olympic Games.
The streets of Skibbereen were bustling with pride and jubilation after the Irish quartet of Emily, Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe and Fiona Murtagh claimed Ireland’s first Olympic medal in Tokyo.
The Skibbereen Rowing Club official said he knew Emily was destined for a bright future from the first moment he encountered the Olympic hero.
“She first got involved through the school’s rowing programme," he said. "She was a natural from day one. She had a unique talent.
"At the end of the week, she asked me ‘could I come another day?’ and the rest is history.”
The club captain praised Emily and her team-mates for their success.
“She is a phenomenal athlete," he said. "It is an incredible achievement.
“There is great excitement and a sense of pride in the town and all the surrounding areas. Everyone is so proud of all our local athletes."
Cian O'Mahony, manager of Skibbereen Tourist Office, praised Emily and her team-mates for the ‘courage’ they displayed in getting to a podium finish.
“It is after lifting the spirits of the whole community," he said. "They showed great courage to claim a medal. She will inspire a new generation.
"People are proud of Emily’s heroics.”
James Hamilton who is a member of Skibbereen Chamber of Commerce said Emily is a great ‘ambassador’ and ‘role model’.
“We are all over the moon," he said. "It is fantastic for both the town and the rowing club.
Replays of the historic race were broadcast throughout the day in Skibbereen as locals and tourists stopped to witness the quartet capture a bronze medal.
Mr Hamilton said she has brought great pride to the local area, with its proud rowing tradition.
“There is such a strong feeling of happiness and elation in Skibbereen," he said.
"We are looking forward to welcoming all the local athletes back.”
Cork County Councillor Joe Carroll praised the Cork sports star for her part in creating Olympic history.
Fellow councillor Karen Coakley echoed Mr Carroll’s sentiments. “I am beyond thrilled for Emily, her family and all involved with Skibbereen Rowing Club. Her hard work has paid off. It is a proud day for the local community.
Cllr Coakley said everybody in the local community is on a ‘high’.
“Everybody is buzzing. We are on a high. There are gates painted and flags flying high. She is just such a humble and fantastic lady.”