Irish Olympic champions fish, swim and scull into Henley Royal Regatta final

Saturday, August 14

Ireland’s Olympic gold medallists, Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan, moved semi-serenely through to the final of the Double Sculls Challenge Cup whilst performing their own version of a triathlon. 

McCarthy and O’Donovan a (Skibbereen Rowing Club and University College, Cork, Ireland), who won gold in the lightweight men’s doubles sculls in Tokyo, did what they needed to do again to make the final, beating Jamie Copus and Quentin Antognelli (Oxford Brookes University), but admitted they are still getting to grips with the unique nuances of the 2,112-metre course at Henley-on-Thames.

“Yes, we had an interesting race, with Fintan doing a bit of a triathlon – fishing, swimming and rowing,” O’Donovan said. “And then Brookes had an excellent start, but then Fintan set his eyes on rowing again and laid down the power there thankfully.”

O’Donovan has plenty of motivation because he did not enjoy losing the final in 2018, his only other appearance at the Regatta – and he is doubling up in two events tomorrow, so energy conservation is a factor. 

“When I raced with my brother, we made the finals at the double sculls and unfortunately we got knocked out on the Sunday which was really very silly of us. If we had known that was going to happen, we would have probably got knocked out on the Friday maybe to enjoy the event a bit better,” O’Donovan said.
“Fintan, it’s his first time, and he’s really naïve and wanted to go training here. I told him, this is not the type of regatta you go to train at Fintan, this is serious business.”
McCarthy is letting his sculling do the talking. “As you can tell, Paul’s been around the block at Henley so he knows exactly what’s going on,” he said. “I feel like (today) they got a few good lengths, but we got into a rhythm and it was all good after that.  It’s cool, totally different experience to normal racing, it’s like a minute and a half longer than we’re used to. But I’m having a lot of fun thankfully.”
O’Donovan cannot wait until tomorrow. “I’ve really realised that winning is better than not winning, and that’s what we’re going to try and do this weekend.”
It looked like they had several more gears and they may need them tomorrow against some heavyweights, a composite crew of Matthew Haywood and Samuel Meijer (The Tideway Scullers’ School and Nottingham Rowing Club), who won gold in the quadruple sculls at the u23 World Championship in July. Both rowers look like central parts of Great Britain’s sculling future.
Lauren Henry sculls again 
Another person fast looking like that is Lauren Henry, the 19-year-old from Leicestershire who shocked the Olympic gold medallist on Friday, who showed it was no one-scull-wonder by beating Margaret Fellows (Long Beach Junior Crew, USA)  in the semi-final of the Princess Royal Challenge Cup.
Fellows, who did not lack motivation after finishing fourth in the US trials and just missing out on Tokyo, could find no way past Henry (Leicester Rowing Club), a Great Britain u23 rower. Henry led from the start, was over a length up at the halfway mark at Fawley and looked composed and controlled as she extended away without spending too much.
Henry will have her work cut out tomorrow against Lola Anderson (Leander Club), who  underlined her pre-Regatta status as one of the favourites by dominating Ireland’s Lydia Heaphy - and showing Skibbereen Rowing Club are beatable. Anderson made it a great day for her old school, Surbiton High, as she powered into the final. Anderson, was a silver medallist at the Junior World Championships in 2016 and an u23 World Champion in the quad in 2019. She won a bronze at World Cup 3 in the single sculls.
Junior Women’s Eights
In the morning, Surbiton High School beat national champions, Lady Eleanor Holles School in stunning semi-final. Forty minutes later, Headington School joined Surbiton in the final, it was telling that there were no celebrations from Headington after the line.
Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup
Earlier in the day in the PE (junior men’s eights) Westminster powered off their station, but St Paul’s had far too much and set up a third consecutive final with Eton College, who had looked equally smooth against St Edward’s in the morning session.
Read all the highlights of the day’s racing here

Henley Royal Regatta, founded in 1839, is the best-known rowing regatta in the world, renowned for its match-racing.  It is one of the highlights of the summer sporting and social calendar in the UK, as well as the rowing calendar internationally. More than 300 races are staged at the Regatta, featuring Olympians and emerging stars from around the world.
Henley Royal Regatta is returning to the water after being cancelled in 2020 for the first time in its 182-year history outside of the World Wars.

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