UCC student and alumna also win first ever Olympic Medal for Irish women’s rowing
History was made in the small hours of this morning as Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy secured Ireland’s first ever Olympic Gold medal in Rowing at the Tokyo games. Paul is one of seven University College Cork students at the Olympics in Tokyo, meaning UCC has more students on Team Ireland than any other Higher Education Institute in the country.
Paul and Fintan – a University College Cork student and alumnus respectively – justified their favourite tags with a thrilling race in the men’s lightweight double sculls final at the Sea Forest Waterway, coming from behind to beat Germany and secure gold.
The victory secures the duo’s place in the annals Irish sporting history, bringing with it the country’s tenth ever gold medal in the history of the games.
It comes just a day after another historic performance by the Women’s Four – including UCC student Emily Hegarty and alumna Aifric Keogh – who won Bronze, the first ever Olympic Medal for Irish women’s rowing.
‘You’d be a little bit worried there that you’d make a bags of everything’
Paul, who is a Quercus scholar studying Medicine at UCC, spoke to RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland about balancing his sporting and academic commitments.
“I’m going into Third Year now of the Graduate Entry Programme at UCC, and they’ve been very accommodating as well in fairness, they’ve been good to me, gave me some time off there. I did a little bit up until December last year and then they let me off, but I’ll have to pick it up again now once I get home, there’ll be no let-up but that’s alright.
“There’s a lot of study to do, and then you’re trying to do a lot of training as well, but I like both things, you know? So when you’re interested then you take a lot of enjoyment from that and just trying to balance it too, it’s good fun as well. You’d be a little bit worried there that you’d make a bags of everything, the whole lot at some stage, but I’ve held it together just about so far which is good!”
Also on Thursday morning, UCC students Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen put in a strong performance to finish second in the lightweight double sculls B final, securing and eighth place finish overall.
Earlier this week Philip Doyle and UCC student Ronan Byrne took fourth spot in the men’s doubles B final to finish tenth overall.
Team Ireland’s UCC contingent in Tokyo also included current students Tara Hanlon and Lydia Heaphy, who were reserves for the women’s rowing crew and women’s lightweight rowing crew respectively.
“They are not just off the TV” – UCC Rowing shares success
UCC Rowing Club Captain, Hugh Sutton, a third year food science student at UCC, said: “The club is ecstatic. You feel part of it when you know them so well. They are not just off the TV and you feel you have contributed in whatever small way to an amazing achievement by both our women and male rowers.”
Interim UCC President John O’Halloran today offered congratulations to our Olympians:
“We are so enormously proud of our UCC undergraduate students and alumni who have made history Tokyo Olympics. It is an incredibly proud day not just for the student themselves, but for their families, coaches, and the academic and professional support staff here in UCC,” Prof O’Halloran said.
“All seven student rowers are on full scholarships from the Quercus Talented Students Programme which has been generously sponsored by Ford for the past four years. The support from this programme has allowed these athletes to not only compete at the highest international level within their sport, but also to progress with their individual degree programmes. It is enormously challenging for dual career athletes which makes this achievement all the more remarkable.
“On behalf of everyone at UCC I want to congratulate each and every one of them for representing Ireland with distinction at the Olympics,” he said.
First Irish athlete to contest three events at one Olympics
Other UCC graduates participating at the Olympics are Phil Healy, who will become the first Irish athlete ever to contest three events at one Olympics, Aoife Cooke who is taking part in the Marathon, and Louise Shanahan who is taking part in the Women’s 800m.
UCC is also hoping to have representation at the Paralympics when Team Ireland announces its athletes for the Games shortly.