CORK rowing star Fintan McCarthy is still coming to terms with winning a gold medal alongside Paul O’Donovan in the lightweight men’s double sculls at the World Rowing Championships.
The Skibbereen Rowing Club duo produced a brilliant display that propelled them to a historic victory.
“It was unbelievable. It’s one of those things you dream about for years. It was the best moment of my rowing career. It was a surreal experience.”
The modest West Cork sporting star who is still only 22-years-old has enjoyed a brilliant season thus far from a rowing perspective. Fintan along with Paul also qualified the boat for next year’s Olympic Games. Fintan is delighted with their recent strong results.
“Some days I’d wake up and forget for a minute or two and have a little smile to myself when I remember our recent performances. Nothing is different really. There is just that confidence in knowing that on that day everything went right and you were the best in the world. We know that if you get everything right the next time, there’s no reason why it can’t happen again.”
The ace duo got off a slow start in the World Championship final. They quickly recovered however after the 500m mark as they eased through the gears which moved them clear of all their opponents. They moved from last in the pack to the summit before the 1,500m mark which showcases their ability to power clear of the field.
“I was a little worried. We were a bit further down than usual after 500m, but I gained a lot of experience and confidence this year competing with both Jake and Paul starting from behind. The key is to stay cool and keep coming through the field.”
Qualifying the boat for next year’s Olympic Games was the primary goal for Rowing Ireland going into the recent World Championships. Once the Cork duo had achieved their goal of securing their qualification, it allowed them to relax.
“I was a little nervous before the heat and quarter-final, but after those races I was a lot more confident and relaxed. Once we got the boat qualified after the semi-final, then most of the nerves were gone and I was just excited to see what we could do in the final. Conditions were lovely. We had undertaken a lot of training in tricky water conditions at our training camp in Banyoles, so we were well prepared for rough conditions anyway.”
Paul O’Donovan, who along with his brother Gary captured silver medals at the last Olympic Games, remains the dominant figure in Irish rowing. His technical ability and unique physical stature is remarkable.
“It was great to row with Paul this summer. I learned so much about how to move a boat from him. I doubt there’s any lightweight and not many heavyweights in the world that are as strong as him. He’s unbelievably fit too. He just keeps going and going, trying to keep up with him in training was tough. It definitely made me faster though.”
They trained very diligently together during their intense training camp preparations.
“Training was going quite well since we first got into the boat and to be honest it didn’t take long to get going fast. We had a few initial races during our trials that were quite fast without much training. The World Cup in Rotterdam as well as the final trial after that went well, so it was like we were going from strength to strength. We got it right just in time for the big one.”
There will be serious competition for the two places for the lighweight men’s double sculls who will compete in Tokyo. The O’Donovan brothers Paul and Gary, and the McCarthy twins Fintan and Jake will all be contenders.
“Qualifying a boat for the Olympics is definitely one off the bucket list. Now that I’ve qualified and as reigning world champion with Paul, I’ll be looking to go all the way to Tokyo but it won’t be easy. There is a really strong group of us at present with Gary and Jake as well as others coming up. They will all be looking to take a seat in the boat.”
Fintan just completed a degree in physiology in UCC and plans to take a short break to let his body recover.
“I will try and make some more improvements for the year ahead. I aim to get faster, fitter and stronger over the winter. My long term is to win gold in the Olympics.”