Ireland’s history-making Olympic rowing gold medallists Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy have attributed their success to a combination of luck and hard work.
Speaking to RTE radio, the pair – who landed Ireland’s first ever Olympic gold in rowing after winning the lightweight double sculls in Toyko on Thursday morning – reflected on the journey that brought them and their small Cork town of Skibbereen to sporting success.
“You need a bit of luck. We were born into the place we were born into and there’s a rowing club nearby,” Mr O’Donovan said.
Alongside his brother Gary, O’Donovan won a silver medal at the Rio Games in 2016, but McCarthy came out on top in selection trials ahead of Tokyo.
Looking back on the path from Rio to Tokyo, O’Donovan said it was “lucky that Fintan was there and was watching and trained really hard and made it into the boat”.
“Fundamentally, we did a whole lot of training – that’s the main ingredient,” he said.
McCarthy, a physiologist by training, only took up rowing aged 15. He wasn’t particularly interested in sport as a child.
“I don’t think I found any sport I enjoyed until rowing came along,” he said.
He said the pair weren’t too fazed by the strong start of the German team.
“We always expected them to have a quick start,” he said.
“I think we got slightly ahead of the Germans at the 1,500m-mark and then it was all go.”
The pair are already looking ahead to the next Olympics.
“We’ll stick at the rowing for another few years, anyway. The next Olympics is going to be the last one for our event, so we’ll have to go out with a bang,” McCarthy said.
For O’Donovan, the end of the Olympics also means a return to study – he’s going into his third year of a medicine degree.
“There’ll be no let up,” he predicted.
The rowers were praised by Ireland’s president, with Michael D Higgins hailing them for their “tremendous achievement”.
He tweeted: “After the magnificent success in women’s rowing yesterday, today we celebrate Ireland’s first Olympic gold medal in rowing, won so deservedly by Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy in the lightweight double sculls.
“Theirs is a tremendous achievement, which gives great inspiration to young people and aspiring athletes all over Ireland.”
The gold is Ireland’s first since boxer Katie Taylor won in London 2012 and the country’s 10th overall in summer Games.
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