Green blades are go! Sanita Puspure leads the charge with Tokyo 2020 Olympics heat win for Irish rowers

Tokyo 2020 here we come: Cork's Sanita books quarter-final spot, unlucky Ronan Byrne goes in repéchage with Philip Doyle, and other Irish rowers about to burst on to the scene
Green blades are go! Sanita Puspure leads the charge with Tokyo 2020 Olympics heat win for Irish rowers

Sanita Puspure of Ireland during her heat of the women's single sculls at the Sea Forest Waterway during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Baptiste Fernandez/Sportsfile

SANITA PUSPURE made an impressive start for Team Ireland at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics today.

Sanita went in the second heat of women’s single sculls and dominated and controlled the race once she took up the lead early in the race.

In very hot and humid conditions Sanita put in a time of 7:46.08 to lead out the Irish charge and book her place in the quarter-finals on Monday.

Kara Kohler of the USA won the first heat in 7:49.71, as expected heat three when to Russia’s Hannah Prakatsen in 7:48.74, heat four went to Britain’s Victoria Thornley in 7:44.30, heat five went to Austria’s Magdalena Lobnig in 7:37.91, and New Zealand’s Emma Twigg won the final heat in a time of 7:35.22.

Tokyo 2020: Rowing Ireland athletes taking part in Tokyo Olympics
Tokyo 2020: Rowing Ireland athletes taking part in Tokyo Olympics

Some impressive times there to be wary of, not least Emma Twigg, Victoria Thornley and Magdalena Lognig.

Sanita will be familiar with this competition and has done battle with Magdalena across many championships. Sanita has stretched beyond Magdalena of late, but those are impressive times.

But while some will want to dominate and put down a marker to the competition, others will know that finishing third in your heat by a distance still gets you through to the next round.

So queue the games, literally!

Two second-place times were also impressive, by Sophie Souwer of Netherlands in 7:39.96, and Canada’s Carling Zeeman in 7:40.72.

But these were heats and you can only race against those in your heat, and Sanita comfortably won her heat by eight seconds, saying she “can go faster”.

That challenge will begin in the quarter-finals on Monday.

Ronan Byrne of Ireland in conversation with Team Ireland coach Giuseppe De Vita after disappointment in the heats. 	Picture: Sportsfile
Ronan Byrne of Ireland in conversation with Team Ireland coach Giuseppe De Vita after disappointment in the heats. Picture: Sportsfile

Meanwhile, Ireland’s Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne (Cork) were unlucky not to make it through in their men’s double heat when they finished just outside the top three in fourth spot. That gives them still an opportunity to qualify through in the repéchage, which they go into in a few hours knowing the result needs to go their way or their Olympic journey is over.

But they know that they have pulled it out of the bag before when needed.

Also rowing in a matter of hours are all-Cork crews of Margaret Cremen and Aoife Casey, and Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan,  who began their Olympic journey, along with Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Emily Hegarty (Skibbereen), Fiona Murtagh, Monika Dukarska and Aileen Crowley.

They are also going up against intense heat, with reports of other athletes suffering in the heat, while the threat of a change of conditions in the coming days forced a change to the schedule.

World Rowing said concerns over inclement weather had prompted a change to the rowing programme, which also included moving the men’s and women’s eights heats from Sunday to Saturday.

“Adverse weather is expected which would bring high winds and strong gusts creating probably unequal and potentially unrowable racing conditions,” the governing body said.

Rowing Ireland lightweight team ready for Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Rowing Ireland lightweight team ready for Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Speaking to RTE about her heat and qualifying for the quarter-finals Sanita said she had more to give.

“It was okay. It was good to get the first race done and dusted,” she said .

“The start could have been better but we will work on it. It wasn’t too hard today but it is going to get harder as it goes along. If I was third it wouldn’t make much difference.

“It was a comfortable win so it was good to get a good race out of the way. Every race I do just brings my psychology up a little bit as well.”

The mood in the Irish camp is good, the prospects are good, and all will be revealed in the coming days.

Go Ireland!

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