CONGRATULATIONS to our Olympic medal contenders Margaret Cremen and Aoife Casey on their fantastic achievement in qualifying Ireland for the Olympics.
And it is fitting recognition that they’ve been chosen as winners of our Echo Women In Sport quarterly awards for this achievement as a talented crew.
The two stars of Irish rowing have been part of the lightweight double set-up for many years and have represented Ireland at many international championships.
But one of their finest moments came in May when at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland, they pulled off a stunning performance to take a bronze medal.
And with it came an even bigger prize, the biggest of them all... they qualified the boat for the Tokyo Olympics.
A fantastic achievement, but not one that should surprise. Margaret and Aoife have been building to this achievement for many years.
In that tense and exciting final they clinched the final Olympic qualification spot for Ireland when they finished third, with only three places available, in an incredibly tight finish.
They fought hard from start to finish, came from behind in what has become typical Irish style, and caught the Chinese in the final 600 meters, overtook them, and took the last Olympic spot... at the last Olympic Qualification Regatta.
Afterwards Aoife said: “It’s so surreal because I feel like we’ve worked so hard the past two to three years. We came in as underdogs. It just shows what you can do. We came from behind and all we wanted to do was do our best and we are so happy.”
A delighted Margaret added: “When we crossed the line we were in complete shock! We have worked so hard for so long and to achieve our long-term goal was a great feeling.
“We have been competing together since we were junior which made it even more special! I am really proud of our race. Excited for the next training block to make more gains before the Olympics.
We’ll spend three weeks in Banyoles in Spain and we’ll travel to Tokyo from there. It’s crazy even saying all of this!”
And now as that training camp is complete Margaret and Aoife are making their way to Tokyo to represent Ireland in a proud moment for them. And they have made gains in the past three weeks.
They have rowed successfully together for many years and won silver for Ireland at the 2017 European Junior Rowing Championships and again won silver for Ireland at the 2020 European U23 Rowing Championships.
Both now rowing with UCC Rowing Club and Rowing Ireland they have shown consistency down the years, culminating in this opportunity to win a medal for Ireland at the Olympic Games.
Growing up Margaret learned her rowing skills at Lee Rowing Club, while Aoife learned hers with Skibbereen Rowing Club.
They continue to excel as a crew and their families and clubs are extremely proud of them.
Margaret is a previous winner of these Echo Women In Sport monthly awards and has won the overall title of Cork Sculling Ladder champion on three occasions.
The competition is a challenge one that runs for nine months from autumn, and see challenges thrown down by those beneath others on the ladder in a bid to topple the leader and take the overall title.
Margaret, 22, is from Rochestown in Cork and has been rowing since 2014. She is now studying Sports Studies and Physical Education with Irish at University College Cork.
She counts among her sporting highlights competing for her club at Irish Rowing Championships and representing Ireland at international competitions.
Aoife, also 22, started rowing in her hometown of Skibbereen in 2009. She is currently studying Medical and Health Sciences at UCC.
Both have been steadily building to this glorious Olympics moment for many years, and most recently have been impressing at European and World events.
They have spend the past three weeks at a training camp in Banyoles, Spain, where they have adjusting to higher temperatures ahead of the Olympics. And today they are making their way to Tokyo to take part in the Olympic Games.
And not long after that they’ll likely be taking part in the Irish Rowing Championships here in Cork.
“We are thrilled to be going to the Olympics and representing Ireland,” Margaret told The Echo. “It’s so exciting.”
Here’s wishing the excitement continues and we welcome Margaret and Aoife back to Cork as Olympic medalists.
While we will be willing that to happen, either way we are extremely proud of both Margaret and Aoife and wish them the very best in the Olympics journey, and we look forward to giving our rowing Olympians a huge welcome home to Cork.