Thursday 27 October 2016

Silver lining as siblings star in Rio

The brothers celebrate with their dad Terry. Picture Credit: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
The brothers celebrate with their dad Terry. Picture Credit: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
The brothers celebrate after their Silver medal. Picture Credit: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

They are the brothers who charmed the nation - and brought home our first-ever Olympics medal in rowing for good measure.

Champagne corks were popping and celebrations in full flow - both in Rio and at home last night - as hero siblings Gary (23) and Paul (22) O'Donovan made history after they claimed second place in the men's lightweight sculls final in Brazil.

Down-to-earth Gary and Paul embraced, exhausted but overjoyed with their win, before making their way to the crowd where they were greeted by their delighted parents, Teddy and Trish O'Donovan, after cinching silver medals.


The brothers came second in the men's lightweight double sculls final in a historic win for Ireland.

And it came on the back of a good day of competition for Irish athletes in Rio.

Dubliner Claire Lambe and her rowing partner Sinead Jennings from Donegal lost out on a medal in the women's rowing, but still finished sixth in the overall competition.

Dundrum native Scott Evans became the first Irishman to win a badminton match at the Olympics when he beat highly-regarded German 12th seed Marc Zwiebler by two sets to one. Mark English finished in third place in heat six and qualified for the 800m semi-final, which will take place today.

However, it was the rowers who stole the show in Rio and "captured the nation's imagination", according to President Michael D Higgins who led tributes to the rowers last night.

RTE panelist and former Olympian Neville Maxwell cried in studio after the brothers' race. The Skibbereen twosome were in high spirits when they spoke live on RTE2 television last night.

Paul, asked about how he felt after the race, said: "I'm shook enough now after the race. The legs are like jelly.

"We did a bit of celebrating and did the podium thing and got to put on the podium pants as well so that was quite nice.

"We saw the mother and the father and we took a few pictures. I had to do this doping control thing so I was there for an hour or two trying to take a pee into a cup for them.

"So after about 10 litres of water I'm full up, to be honest. It's been great craic anyway."

"We've been having a great time altogether, signing photographs and autographs," Gary said. "We're fairly tired now. We haven't had a bite to eat since after the weigh-in when we had a bread roll with some Nutella. But I believe they're on their way with some pizzas for us."

Gary said they did not have much time yet to think about their achievement.

"It's been a bit of a circus since we finished the race. We're just trying to take it all in and enjoy it the best we can at the minute," he said.

Paul said they were delighted with the celebrations going on back in Skibberreen.

"I haven't a clue what's going on at home but I hear it's mad excitement altogether.

"'Tis a pity we're missing the whole thing out here," said Gary. Paul quipped: "Skibberreen is after closing down. A national holiday or something."

At home in Cork locals were overjoyed to watch the pair row to victory. On top of their athletic prowess, the brothers, who hail from Skibbereen, have been hailed for their lively post-race interviews.

Immediately after the race yesterday, Paul O'Donovan said on RTE: "We are a little bit disappointed we didn't come away with the gold medal, I think we put it up to the French as best we could.

"And we died I suppose there a bit at the end, I'd say we were going all over the lane.

"We are dreading going home now because Mick Conlan said he would box the head off us if we didn't get the gold," he joked.

During the interview the winning French team walked past and the brothers interrupted the interview to hug and congratulate the victors.

"Fair play to ye," the siblings said.


Paul said: "It is a fantastic sport so we are just hoping that a lot of more people realise it and take it up and give it a go.

"You would never know, there are plenty of people with two arms and two legs like the two of ourselves, so there could be more Olympic champions to come, please God."

At home in Cork locals were overjoyed. Their uncle, Peter O'Donovan, fought back tears of pride as talked about his talented nephews.

"They may come across as jokers in those TV interviews but those two lads had put their hearts and souls into training for Rio," he said.

"They're lovely lads and they truly represent the very best of a proud rural Irish community."

The boys have been rowing since they were just seven and eight and were introduced to the sport by their dad.

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