Alumnus O’Donovan makes history with gold at World Rowing Championships

Posted 17 September, 2018

Irish rowers Gary and Paul O’Donovan have claimed another historic first, winning gold at the World Rowing Championships in the men's lightweight double sculls. 

The Olympic silver medallists rowed to glory at the competition in Bulgaria, comfortably finishing two seconds ahead of race rivals Italy.

University College Dublin alumnus Paul O’Donovan, recently graduated from UCD’s School of Public Health Physiotherapy and Sports Science, and his brother captured the top prize after pulling ahead in the last 500 metres.

Backed by a tailwind as they rowed from lane six, the Skibbereen duo looked comfortable throughout the 2km race, finishing in 6:06.81.

Following the race, the brothers admitted that it was one of their best-ever performances.

“We planned to win it all year. We have been trying hard to win every race and we said the most important one will be the World Championship final this year," said Gary, speaking to RTÉ Sport.

"I think we took our best strokes ever out there for 2000m. This is my first-ever World Championship final at any level and it's Paul's seventh World Championship final.

“When the Italians go ahead of us the very last thing we want to do is panic; that would only make things a lot worse.” 

Paul added: "The race is long and we’re still within touching distance so there was never any panic. Even though they were ahead we were happy with our own start."

The brothers’ number one finish is the first time that Ireland had won gold in the lightweight double sculls at the World Championships.

President Michael D Higgins hailed their victory in Bulgaria as "inspirational".

"It is a pleasure to once again send my congratulations to Gary and Paul O'Donovan on winning a rowing medal," he said.

"They continue to inspire us, not only with this win at the World Rowing Championships but also with their mental and physical strength."

As a UCD Ad Astra Elite Sports scholar, Paul, and brother Gary, made history in 2016 when they became the first-ever Irish rowers to win a medal at the Olympics, taking silver in the lightweight men’s double sculls final at the Summer Games in Rio.

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations