In the first international competition of 2014 for Irish crews, six athletes were selected to represent Ireland at recent Memorial Paolo d’Aloja International Regatta in Piediluco, Italy. The six selected athletes competed in four events:
Heavyweight Women’s Double Scull: Eimear Moran (Three Castles RC) and Monika Dukarska (Killorglin RC)
Heavyweight Women’s Pair: Leonora Kennedy (Portora BC) and Lisa Dilleen (Grainne Mhaol RC)
Heavyweight Women’s Single Scull: Sanita Puspure (Old Collegians BC)
Lightweight Men’s Singles Scull: Paul O’Donovan (UCD BC)
This international competition attracted top-tier international athletes from 36 countries, including several World Champions and Olympic medallists. The racing was spread over three days, with heats on the Friday and Saturday afternoon and finals on Saturday and Sunday morning.
The Heavyweight Women’s Pair of Leonora Kennedy and Lisa Dilleen, racing together for the first time in this combination, were the stand-out Irish crew of the weekend, with dominating performances in all their races, to win gold on both days of the regatta. The Pair have been training together for a month, with Dilleen, who finished fourth in the Heavyweight Four at the 2013 Under 23 World Championships, relocating to Cork from Galway to train full-time at the National Rowing Centre. Kennedy competed last year in the Heavyweight Double Scull with Monika Dukarska, finishing 6th at the World Cup II in the UK and 10th at the 2013 World Championships, in Chungju, South Korea.
Sanita Puspure, who finished 13th at the 2012 Olympic Games, returned to international competition for the first time since May 2013 at this regatta. Competing in her preferred event of the Heavyweight Single Scull, Puspure followed up on her recent strong performances at the Irish Trials in February and March, winning a silver medal on both days of the regatta, behind 2013 World Champion Donata Vistartaite of Lithuania.
Bronze medallist at the 2013 Under 23 Rowing Championships, Paul O’Donovan, faced the largest entry in the regatta in the Lightweight Single Scull, with over 20 crews competing on both days. The 19-year-old produced an exceptional performance to win a bronze medal in Saturday’s final in an experienced field, with 2012 Olympic gold medallist Lawrence Sizwe Ndvolu of South Africa winning the race. O’Donovan finished in fourth place in Sunday’s final (just missing out on a bronze medal by 0.33 seconds).
The newly formed Women’s Double Scull of Eimear Moran and Monika Dukarska were selected for this event after their recent impressive performances at the Irish Trials. Dukarska had previously partnered Leonora Kennedy in this event in the 2013 international season. Moran, who won the 2013 Irish Championships in this event, previously competed at the Junior World Championships in 2001 and 2002. The crew, racing together for the first time in this combination, put in solid performances in their first races as a crew, to win a bronze medal in Saturday’s final, and finish in fourth place in Sunday’s final.
The next event for Irish crews will be 2014 European Rowing Championships in Belgrade, Serbia from Friday 30th May to Sunday 1st June. The crews for this event are still in the selection process.