Sanita Puspure leads the way as three Irish crews keep Olympic dreams alive

Konan Pazzaia and the women’s four are also looking to seal their Paris berth after progressing to Tuesday’s final session

If by Tuesday lunchtime Sanita Puspure has qualified for her fourth Olympics it will complete a remarkable cycle not just for herself but for Irish rowing.

Three Irish crews entered the final Olympic Qualifying Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland, and all three go into Tuesday’s concluding session with Paris still very much within reach, the 42-year-old Puspure again leading the way.

When the Latvian-born rower made it to her first Olympics in the women’s single sculls in London in 2012, she was the sole Irish boat to qualify, and by lunchtime on Tuesday Rowing Ireland will likely have a record number of crews qualified.

Like she did in Sunday’s heats, Puspure, of Old Collegians Boat Club, came through the semi-finals on Monday as the fastest boat in the women’s singles, finishing a length and a half clear of 20-year-old Aurelia-Maxima Janzen from Switzerland, who simply couldn’t last with Puspure’s pace for the 2,000m distance.


Three Olympic slots are available in the final, but one will go to a country which hasn’t yet qualified a boat for Paris, that top-two finish still appearing well within Puspure’s reach. A former two-time World Champion in the singles, she had spent a few seasons in the double and four, and is clearly back to her dominant best.

Konan Pazzaia has the same chance in the men’s singles, the 23-year-old Swiss-born rower coming through his quarter-final and semi-final on Monday, although he had to settle for third in his semi-final, behind Kjetil Borch of Norway, the Tokyo silver medallists, then by Romania’s Mihai Chiruta, who went on to win.

For Pazzaia, from Queen’s University Belfast Boat Club, making Paris will require something special, but he’s still in there with a shout. The final Olympic Qualifying Regatta is also known as the “Regatta of Death”, such is the cut-throat nature of the racing.

The women’s four, already through from Sunday’s preliminary race of six crews to decide the final lane draws, are also seeking a top-two. After finishing a close second to Denmark, that’s also well within their reach.

Having qualified late for Tokyo and then winning bronze medals, there are high hopes for this quartet of Imogen Magner, Eimear Lambe, Natalie Long and Emily Hegarty. Ireland has already qualified six boats for Paris; the women’s and men’s pairs and doubles, and the two lightweight doubles.

Tuesday’s final schedule (all times Irish): 9:50am - Women’s Four Final; 11:40am - Men’s Single A Final; 11:58am - Women’s Single A Final

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics