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Toky-blow Sanita Puspure marches on but nightmare for Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne in Olympic rowing

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Sanita Pupure of Ireland on her way to finishing 1st in the Women's Single Sculls quarter-final at the Sea Forest Waterway during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Sanita Pupure of Ireland on her way to finishing 1st in the Women's Single Sculls quarter-final at the Sea Forest Waterway during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Sanita Pupure of Ireland on her way to finishing 1st in the Women's Single Sculls quarter-final at the Sea Forest Waterway during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Tipped as medal prospects, Ireland’s double crew of Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne have had a nightmare Olympics.

The sight of them crossing the line nearly 29 seconds behind semi-final winners France was testimony to their struggles on the Sea Forest Waterway.

They were last in their heat on Friday, before they scraped into the semi-final via an unconvincing performance in the Repechage yesterday. But three races in three days in the searing heat was always going to prove problematic and the Irish duo were eight seconds behind the leaders at the 500m mark and 16 seconds adrift at the half-way point. Not surprisingly they finished sixth and last.

They won a silver medal at the 2019 world championships where they qualified for the Olympics but if they don’t click they have a habit of underperforming. They are still not finished racing here as they are due to go in the B final.

But world champion Sanita Puspure gave an assured performance in the singles sculls quarter-final. She bided her time in the first half of the race, allowing her US rival Kara Kohler dictate the pace.

However, she asserted her dominance after the half-way 1,000m mark and felt confident enough to sneak a look across the other lanes before cruising over the line ahead of Kohler and the Chinese sculler.

But the challenge Puspure faces in the hunt for medals came in the next quarter-final when the controversial Russian Hanna Prakatsen – who has come from obscurity to be the dominant figure in the sport this season – was 9 seconds faster in her heat.

Puspure and a number of Irish rowers were due to compete again on Tuesday but all those races have been pushed to Wednesday due to an incoming tropical storm.

Given that at both the London and Rio Games Puspure exited at the quarter-final stage, this win was an important psychological breakthrough for her..

“My performance is going to go up with every race, so I’m confident in the programme that we did in the last month. Technical execution could have been a little bit better, but I still have some time to work on it again.

"I won but it wasn’t easy so hopefully I can feel more confidence now for the semi-final.

"I am able to relax, I’ve a few more days off now, so it’s just taking one day at a time, doing the training, focus on the details and stuff. So, yeah. There is a little bit amount of pressure, obviously, it’s not too bad."

Monika Dukarska and Aileen Crowley give Ireland the perfect start on a sweltering day on the Sea Forest Waterway.

Having missed out an automatic place in the semi-final they needed a top-three finish in the repechage.

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In a four-boat race they led at the 500m mark before the Greek pair overtook them and led all the way to the finish. USA moved into second place after the 1,000m mark with the Killorglin girls third. Crucially the Chinese were already adrift at this point.

So, the pressure was off and the Irish girls finished third – 14 seconds ahead of China - to keep their Olympic ambitions alive. Their moment of truth comes in Wednesday's semi-final where only the top three to through to the final.

"It was a case of getting the job done and that’s what we did. It was well executed. This is a really changeable course. We’ve now have had two races in two different conditions which is kind of reassuring. I mean they can change to something different again, but we have (races) in two conditions under our belt now," explained Aileen.

While the girls normally prefer to race with the aid of a tail wind, they welcomed the fact they went into a head wind on this occasion as it helped alleviate the impact of the searing heat.

"We are still in the game," said her racing partner Monika.

"We were aware of the change in conditions and adjusted things. We focussed again on the start because it is something that didn’t go according to plan yesterday and we executed that much better So we were pleased with that."

Likewise, the lightweight double partnership of Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen also finished third in their Repechage to qualify for Wednesday's semi-final. Essentially this was another three-boat race with Switzerland winning ahead of South Africa and Ireland third.

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