Olympic hero Paul O'Donovan becomes a world champion

SportBy Sean McGoldrick
Paul O'Donovan before getting his World Championship gold
Paul O'Donovan before getting his World Championship gold

PAUL O’Donovan has sensationally won a World rowing title just 16 days after he secured an Olympic silver medal along with this older brother, Gary in Rio

The 22 year Skibbereen oarsman pulverized an experienced field to take the gold medal in the lightweight single sculls title at the World Rowing championships in Rotterdam.

Cheered on by his Gary and a large contingent of family and friends from Skibbereen, he comfortably won the 2,000m race in seven minutes 32.8 seconds – nearly four seconds clear of the fast finishing Hungarian Peter Galambos (7:36.9) who pipped the pre-race favourite 31 year old Slovakian Lukas Babac, the reigning European champion, for the silver medal.

He is only the fourth Irish sculler to win a gold medal in an A final at World championship level following in the footsteps of Sean Drea (1975) – who won the heavyweight single sculls title – and lightweights Niall O’Toole (1991) and Sinead Lynch (2001).

O’Donovan’s victory ends a historic three weeks for Irish rowing. At the Rio Olympics, the O’Donovan brothers secured Ireland’s first ever Olympic medals in rowing while Sinead Lynch and Clare Lambe became the first ever Irish female crew to reach an Olympic final in which they finished sixth.

Now the 22 year old – who took a break this year from his physiotherapy studies in UCD to concentrate on rowing – has won a world title, while two of his Skibbereen colleagues Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll finished fourth behind the gold medallists France in the lightweight pairs final. .

Their breakthroughs owe much to the work of Dominic Casey, who has been ‘Mr Rowing’ in West Cork for many years.

After making his customary slow start – O’Donovan was lying fifth after 500m – he moved rapidly through the field and was disputing the lead with the Slovenian sculler at the half way point. 

The Corkman increased his stroke rate to 38 in the third 500m and effectively won the race as he went a boat length clear and there was never the slightest possibility of him being caught in the final 500m

“The first stroke was bad, but then the second one was good so I went from there. At the 500m left I remembered I told my friends when I was in Rio that I would win here by open water, so I thought I should probably keep my promise. Then at 200m to go I guess I started smiling a little,” said a jubilant O’Donovan afterwards.