SIMPLY stunning! Sanita Puspure was magic in the final 500m of a 2,000m women’s heavyweight single sculls final in Belgrade yesterday, to win a deserved silver for Ireland.
In a fantastic show of strength Sanita powered her way through the second half of the course to make up so much time on her competitors and to haul herself from fourth up to second, winning the silver after a photo finish.
It was the first of two medals for Rowing Ireland at World Cup I, the 2018 competitive season opener, in Serbia.
And two other Irish crews also finished in the top 10 in their categories.
Expected thunderstorms meant the sudden rescheduling of the A finals, bringing them closer together, and Skibbereen brother Gary and Paul O’Donovan were first up in lightweight double sculls, which was a hard fought race.
Paul and Gary finished within 1.06 seconds of the winners, Poland, to follow home Belgium in silver and take bronze for Ireland.
And they also had put on a fabulous showing to narrowly miss out on the silver in a photo finish.
Ballincollig-based Sanita was up against it in her A final, with current world champion Jeannine Gmelin of Switzerland and 2017 European champion Victoria Thornley of Great Britain taking part, as well as Magdalena Lobnig of Austria, the 2016 European champion.
And so much was expected of Victoria Thornley with the BBC showing the race live, where we got to see Sanita at her best.
While she didn’t get the fastest start, she always stayed in contention and progressed greatly in the final half of the race, and in particular the final quarter, where her strength took her well past the British rower, then moved past the Germany rower, and finally nab the Austrian just on the line to take a stunning silver, less than three seconds behind World champion Jeannine Gmelin of Switzerland.
“I’m very happy with the result, all the women are great out there and could have all got a medal,” Sanita told the World Rowing website.
In the B finals Ireland had two crews. The double scull crew of Monika Dukarska and Aileen Crowley finished third, as did the women’s pair of Aifric Keogh and Emily Hegarty, meaning they each placed 9th overall in the first of the World Cup events.
And the lightweight women’s double crew of Denise Walsh and Margaret Cremen were sixth in the B final, placing them 12th overall. A very respectful performance considering the ladies were racing in their first competitive outing together since they recently formed as a crew.
In Friday’s first race in their event they placed fifth and needed to take the repechage route to progress any further. And here they had to finish in the top three, and this they did, slashing their last race time by 20 seconds and finishing third.
A fabulous first outing, with lots to build on.
New Rowing Ireland CEO Michelle Carpenter was happy with the Rowing Ireland results.
“Very positive results this weekend in our first stage of racing in the World Cup series,” she said.
“I feel very proud to see Sanita back on form in her field and hitting targets in the wake of World Champion Jeannine Gmelin, as well as seeing Gary and Paul battling it out in a tight finish with the Belgian and Polish crews and continuing to produce medals.”
She continued: “I’m also extremely proud of our women’s heavyweight pair and double in their first races together in the international series, as well as our lightweight women’s double. We are on a good pathway now coming into the summer as the World series continues, which will finish with the World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, in September.”
World Cup I, Belgrade (Irish results):
Women’s single sculls – A Final: 1. SUI (J Gmelin) 7:22.78, 2. IRL (S Puspure) 7:25.30, 3. AUT (M Lobnig) 7:25.51, 4. GER1 (A Thiele) 7:27.78, 5. GBR (V Thornley) 7:27.93, 6. DEN (F Erichsen) 7:31.96
Women’s double sculls – B Final: 1. SUI 6:58.77, 2. FRA 6:58.86, 3. IRL 7:03.79, 4. HUN 7:13.84, 5. KOR 7:17.76
Women’s lightweight double sculls – B Final: 1. CAN 6:55.88, 2. GER 6:56.63, 3. POL 6:59.17, 4. USA2 7:00.49, 5. CHN1 7:00.98, 6. IRL 7:07.77
Women’s pair – B Final: 1. POL 7:14.30, 2. CHN3 7:15.98, 3. IRL 7:16.37, 4. CHN1 7:18.49, 5. SRB 7:21.74, 6. CHN2 7:30.12
Lightweight men’s double sculls – A Final: 1. POL 6:13.04, 2. BEL 6:14.09, 3. IRL 6:14.10, 4. CAN2 6:17.27, 5. AUT 6:17.32, 6. SUI1 6:23.87