2019 was the year to achieve Olympic qualification marked by all nations fighting for an Olympic pass.
Our target in this pre-Olympic year was to have more crews than those qualified in 2016. But, of equal importance, it was to demonstrate a highly competitive edge against other nations.
Regardless of the restrictions of funding levels we successfully qualified four crews: the W2- (Monika Dukarska and Aileen Crowley) reaching a second place in a B final ranking 8th (there were 11 spots for Tokyo) and the other three crews through to the A finals and winning 2 Gold Medals (W1x of Sanita Puspure and LM2x of Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy) and 1 Silver Medal (M2x of Ronan Byrne and Phil Doyle).
The W4- (Emily Hegarty, Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Tara Hanlon) were close to qualifying their boat, a great effort for this young crew, with three of them winning silver in the U23 Championships held in Sarasota, and Aifric Keogh returning from an extended period of illness.
An important medal was won by the PR2W1x Katie O’Brien. Katie has been a great asset to the whole team showing exceptional team spirit, dedication, enthusiasm and cooperation.
The M2- (Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan), LW2x (Denise Walsh and Aoife Casey), LW1x (Lydia Heaphy), LM1x (Gary O’Donovan) and the LM4x (Jake McCarthy, Ryan Ballantine, Miles Taylor, Hugh Sutton) has put everything on the plate doing their best.
A big well done also to Natalie Long and Claire Ferrick for their huge effort in supporting the team covering the role of reserves and winning one of the two races for the reserves with the second-best time overall.
In general, I am very happy with the results of not only this year but of the past two and a half years. It’s been a long and tough journey. The focus has not solely been on senior crews, but it has been a holistic approach from development to open men and women.
This year has seen crews achieve finals across all the world championships categories: from junior to open where we also attained medals. There were some just missed medals but those crews, especially the juniors, had very impressive performances, showcasing promise for the future of Rowing Ireland.
With three Olympic class medals, Ireland was ranked 2nd in the world for the Olympic Boat categories (not including the Para), surpassing all objectives and expectations and in doing so breaking Rowing Ireland records. With three medals and four crews selected for the Olympics, we are no longer the Irish underdogs, but we are now what countries and crews worldwide will look at and think of when training and striving to improve their performances. This means that we have now set a bar and that more than ever, we as a team must be even more dedicated, committed, and focused. We must strive to look for ways to improve and keep our foot firmly flat on the accelerator.
All our opponents will put the photos of our medallist athletes on their mirrors because they are the ones to beat. We all know that, and I am sure that all our High-Performance athletes will put their medals in the draw very soon and be ready to prepare for Tokyo.
I would like to congratulate and thank all athletes and team members who have helped and been part of this year’s amazing journey. The success has been achieved based on how we have collectively worked together as a team. Such a level of results only can occur through such a high level of collective effort.
I want to extend my thoughts to all the athletes that did not qualify this year, and I wish to encourage them to finish the job. The game is not over, and the opportunity to qualify is still at their arms reach if they are prepared to review what they have done and apply it to their training moving forward.
As I said after the 2018 World Rowing Championships, I need to reiterate that looking forward we will have to face diverse threats and challenges typical of a post successful year such as:
- The risk of coaches, athletes and staff taking a laid-back attitude. The challenge is to stay on task and not to rest on the previous year’s successes.
- Disappointment that can sometimes follow the achievement of great and never before achieved results, due to the perception of a non-adequate psychological satisfaction, social acknowledgement and financial expectation;
- The arrogance of an overestimated self-esteem which will convince coaches, athletes and staff, that this year results will “automatically” be replicated next year or even improved. One must not lose sight of how hard one worked to achieve the outcome.
As already told, I have learnt that success is in the fruit that the plant produces. The plant is training. Only with a hard and well-established training process, the plant will produce success (the fruit). The soil where the plant is producing the success is the environment – the National Rowing Centre – the clubs – the universities – the whole of Rowing Ireland. If the soil (us) is fertile and strong the athlete will be strong and fast.
As High-Performance Director I have repeatedly said that I need your help and your support. Only with the help of all of Rowing Ireland’s Athletes, Coaches, Volunteers is that Ireland can achieve great results.
Great results in a sport like Rowing will ultimately enable us to achieve the main objective of the sport’s high performance: “the creation of a champion as a positive role model for younger generations”. This would promote their involvement into groups which are positively orientated for an optimal physical, physiological, moral and social development.
Big thanks go to Sport Ireland, Northern Ireland Sport and Olympic Federation of Ireland for their crucial support.
Club’s and Universities coaches and sport’s directors deserve a huge well done and thanks. They are the foundation where the entire HP sits and builds the success.
Thanks to all the board member, Michelle our CEO, Neville our High-Performance Chair, the whole High-Performance Committee and all the Rowing Ireland staff located at the National Rowing Centre in Cork and Dublin.
Last but not least, a big thanks to all of the national coaches David McGowan, Dominic Casey, Giuseppe De Vita (volunteer), Fran Kean, John Armstrong, Ciro Prisco, James Mangan and all the coaches’ part of the Coupe and Home International squad. Their dedication and passion made a difference and inspired me and the athletes.
HPD Rowing Ireland