Morning report from Team Ireland on Day Six of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
JULY 29th, 2021: Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy were crowned Olympic champions in Tokyo this morning, as they rowed home to gold in a thrilling final of the Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls in a time of 6:06.43, to pip the Germans to first place.
In a thrilling race, the Skibbereen crew were sitting in second place for much of the race, with Germany going out fast and dominating the first half. A big push from the Irish double with 700m to go left no doubt about their class, when they edged their boat to the front, and took the win – and that coveted gold medal – by 0.86 of a second on the line.
Elsewhere this morning, there has also been action across golf, judo, shooting and sailing for Team Ireland in another jam-packed day of action.
The Men’s Individual Stroke Play got underway this morning in Tokyo, with Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy representing Team Ireland at Kasumigaseki County Club. At 2pm local time though, play was suspended due to lightning in the area and players are currently awaiting news of when play can resume.
At the time, McIlroy was playing his 14th hole and was tied for 30th on 1-under par. An opening pair of birdies were followed by a bogey on the par 4 6th. The 4-time major champion then birdied the 11th but dropped another shot on 12 due to short-siding his approach shot and failing to get up and down.
Lowry’s tidy wedge play resulted in a birdie on the short par 4 2nd hole, however a dropped shot on the 12th saw him fall back to level par through 13 holes.
Austrian Sepp Straka currently sits in gold medal place, firing an 8-under par 63 earlier this morning.
Irish Judoka, Ben Fletcher, had an early elimination from the Men’s -100kg category, losing by Waza-ari to Mukhammadkarim Khurramov of Uzbekistan (UZB). It was a close competition against the number 14 world ranked Khurramov, who performed a Sode-tsurikomi-goshi – a hip throw – halfway through the fight to take the win. Both players picked up one Shido penalty each throughout the fight which ultimately ended 0s1 – 1s1 in favour of Khurramov (UZB).
Speaking afterwards, Fletcher stated: “He started strong, and I probably didn’t match him to start with, but I finished strong. He managed to score, so he could then defend that. He played it smart, he got a good score. It is difficult, as there are all the what ifs. At the end of the day, I lost. You can analyse it as much as you want but that’s the end result.”
Fletcher fought hard to make these Games having suffered a broken leg earlier on in the year, but he was not going to miss the opportunity to take part: “It was always going to be touch and go to get here. Preparation went as good as it could do. We did everything we could, given the time and unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. If it was any other tournament you probably wouldn’t come back from injury for it, but it is the Olympic Games and there is a lot of effort to qualify. During parts of the qualification process, I was ranked in the Top 10 so it was not in my mind to not try and compete.”
Megan Fletcher, who competed in the Women’s -70kg yesterday and was knocked out by eventual silver medallist, Michaela Polleres (AUT), was cheering her brother on from the stands.
“Having Megan here is brilliant. For the two of us, we have been to an Olympic Games together and that’s pretty special. It is really nice for our family as well, obviously we would have liked for it to have gone differently, but it is a big achievement to even be here. It is a big deal for us, and a big deal for us to be able to represent our family in Ireland, especially our family in Bruff, Limerick.”
The Lightweight Men’s Double of Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan became Olympic Champions by winning the final with a time of 6:06. 43 today. In a thrilling race the Skibbereen crew were sitting in second place for much of the race, with Germany going out fast and dominating the first half of the race. A push from the Irish double with 700m to go left no doubt about their class, when they edged their boat to the front, and took the win by 0.86 of a second on the line.
Speaking after the race, O’Donovan said, “The Germans and Italians always have a quick start, so for the first time we had a quick start as well, not for lack of effort. It was a bit of a surprise that it paid off and we weren’t totally dropped in the first 500m, so that was good. And then we put the heads down and ploughed on so it was good.”
McCarthy added: “It feels pretty good. We can’t complain! We had a really good race – but a tough one. The Germans were flying so it was hard. I was really excited when we first crossed the line and there was a bit of relief as well. We have had a good time all week, so we are a bit sad that it is all over. We hadn’t had too much time to think about it but it feels pretty good and hopefully it will be that way for a while.”
In the Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls, the Irish crew performed outstandingly to finish second in their B Final with a time of 6:49.90, resulting in an eighth overall final standing, pushing winners of the B Final, Switzerland to the line, crossing the line just 0.74 seconds after them. Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in May, and throughout the Olympic Regatta have produced top class performances, which bodes well for the Paris Olympic cycle.
The Women’s Pair of Monika Dukarska and Aileen Crowley finished fifth in their B Final with 7:02.22, in what was an extremely competitive field, resulting in an 11th place finish overall. They started strong, putting themselves right in the mix, in a grueling battle with Romania and USA which ensued for the remainder of the race. The Killorglin Pair are part of the emerging strong squad of female rowers in Ireland from which the Olympic Bronze Medal winning crew was selected.
In the final race of the day for the rowers, there was disappointment for Sanita Puspure in the semi-finals of the Women’s Single, where she finished fifth in her race, with only the top three progressing to the A Final where the medals are contested.
Sailors Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove have completed their day’s action at the Tokyo Games today, finishing strong in 2nd place and 6th place in Races 5 and 6 of the 49er class respectively to see them lying in 7th position overall. Sunny conditions in Enoshima proved ideal for the Team Ireland sailors.
“We’re feeling pretty good,” said Waddilove afterwards. “We had a pretty average day yesterday, but we learned from our mistakes and we were really nicely set up today so that made our life a lot easier. At the halfway point, we’re still ready to go. One race at a time – and still keep picking off the places.
“We had quite steady conditions, maybe medium winds and not too wavy. First race was just about going fast and keeping yourself clear out of other boats, not making too many mistakes and that was really it – just keep it simple around the racecourse. Really nice conditions here – I don’t think you can get much better.”
Dickson added: “I think what we’ve been doing up to now has been working, so we’re going to keep everything the same as we always sail, keep going and tick off the places as Sean said.”
Annalise Murphy is also in action today, with the Laser Radial races ongoing throughout the day, with Race 7 just finished where the Irish sailor secured 1st place. She will be back in action in Race 8 shortly.
Derek Burnett finished in 26th position in the Trap men’s Qualification with a score of 118 today, with just the top six progressing to the final. Three missed targets in the first round of the competition proved costly, but the Longford shooter responded very strongly, missing just one target in the second and third rounds on day one (yesterday).
Today’s qualification day at the Asaka Shooting Range saw the shooters complete their final two rounds, with Burnett picking up where he left off, posting two more 24-shot rounds. He missed his first shot of the day but got into his rhythm after that, finishing his competition as consistently as possible. Competing in his fifth Games – having debuted at Sydney 2000 – Burnett’s score of 118 is just one shot down on the performance that earned him 9th place in Athens.
Speaking afterwards, Burnett acknowledged that his first-round score of 22 hampered his potential qualification chances, saying: The first one was the one that did all the damage, I missed three targets and really, you’re out of the running after missing three targets.
Burnett showed incredible consistency across the final four rounds, but felt he needed a perfect score along the way: “You’re always pushing for a 25, but it just didn’t seem to be in the script here. I shot four 24’s after, and they were all good, but with the level that’s here at this Olympics – it’s just unbelievable.”