Mixed fortunes for Ireland in Rio

Mixed fortunes Ireland Rio
2 August 2016; Paul O’Donovan and Gary O’Donovan of Ireland celebrate after finishing second in the Men’s Lightweight Double Sculls A final in Lagoa Stadium, Copacabana, during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

As Ireland goes sculls mad after the success of the Skibbereen O’Donovan brothers, the nation’s sweetheart Katie Taylor bowed out on Monday in a shock defeat as she sought to repeat her London 2012 Olympic gold.

The popular rowing brothers Gary and Paul O’Donovan secured Ireland’s first medals of the 2016 Olympic Games as they took silver in the men’s lightweight double sculls.

Mixed fortunes Ireland Rio
2 August 2016; Paul O’Donovan and Gary O’Donovan of Ireland celebrate after finishing second in the Men’s Lightweight Double Sculls A final in Lagoa Stadium, Copacabana, during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The pair, who have won the hearts of millions with their down-to-earth and humorous interviews, have become cult heroes in Rio.

And while they are excellent value off the water, they proved they are pretty handy on it as well by winning the country’s first ever rowing medals.

The duo crossed the line in 6:31.23, edging Norwegians Are Strandli and Kristoffer Brun into third place. Despite a tough start, the boys from Skibbereen, Co. Cork, produced a stunning performance to finish just 0.53 seconds behind gold medal winners Pierre Houin and Jeremie Azou of France.

They will go down in history as Ireland’s first Olympic medallists in the sport but they will no doubt be most fondly remembered for their unassuming post-race interviews with RTÉ. From-the-heart quotes such as “’tis great to beat the Brits as well” and “steak for breakfast, lunch and dinner…with spuds if you like” have seen them gain an army of fans.

Mixed fortunes Ireland Rio
12 August 2016; Paul O’Donovan, left, and Gary O’Donovan of Ireland during a press conference after the Men’s Lightweight Double Sculls A final in Lagoa Stadium, Copacabana, during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Paul’s quip of “pull like a dog” in reference to their rowing style became a twitter sensation, while t-shirts emblazoned with their silhouettes have been created.

And although they secured an excellent result at the Lagoa Stadium, Paul joked that their failure to catch the French could have unfortunate consequences. “I’m already dreading going home because [Belfast boxer] Mick Conlan said he’d box the head off us if we didn’t get the gold,” he explained.

 

Mixed fortunes Ireland Rio
15 August 2016; Katie Taylor of Ireland reacts after her defeat to Mira Potkonen of Finland in their Lightweight quarter-final bout in the Riocentro Pavillion 6 Arena, Barra da Tijuca, during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

In reality, though, they will be delighted with their achievements – just as the whole of Ireland, and many others, will be.

Elsewhere, boxer Katie Taylor suffered a surprise defeat to Finland’s Mira Potkonen in the women’s lightweight 60kg division, ending her quest to retain the title she won four years ago in London.

The Bray fighter was handed the loss on a split-decision, with judges from Ecuador and Vietnam scoring in favour of the Finn. Taylor, who has been dominant in her division for a number of years, had been in relatively patchy form of late and had to settle for bronze at the recent World Championships after suffering her first competitive defeat since 2005.

Victory in the quarter-final bout would have guaranteed Taylor a medal but her first loss to Potkonen meant she followed fellow boxer Paddy Barnes in an earlier-than-expected exit from the Games.

Mixed fortunes Ireland Rio
13 August 2016; Sara Treacy of Ireland in action during round 1 of the Women’s 3000m steeplechase in the Olympic Stadium, Maracanã, during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

On the athletics track, Meath’s Sara Treacy put in a spirited performance as she finished 17th in the women’s steeplechase in front of a sparse crowd in the Olympic Stadium. The Birmingham-based doctor was permitted to run in the final after a panel decided she was unfairly tripped in her heat.

Treacy, competing in her first Olympics, completed the race in 9:52.70 as Bahrain’s Ruth Jebet took gold with the second-quickest time in history.

Mixed fortunes Ireland Rio
15 August 2016; Judy Reynolds of Ireland on Vancouver K competes during the Individual Dressage Grand Prix Freestyle Final at the Olympic Equestrian Centre during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Finally, in equestrian, Judy Reynolds scored 75.696% for her routine onboard Vancouver K in the individual dressage final. The first Irish competitor to take part in the individual freestyle, her result put her in 18th position as Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin won her third Olympic gold.

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