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Irish Olympians and World Champions set to take on SIRR 2018

The 2018 Aon Sydney International Rowing Regatta will see not only clubs from across Australia descend upon Penrith at the end of March, but also competitors from Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Vietnam and Ireland.

Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallists and World Champion rowers, Gary and Paul O’Donovan are set to compete at the event, along with Irish World Champion team mates Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan.

The group have been training in New Zealand and are currently competing at the New Zealand National Championships before travelling to Australia next week to prepare for SIRR 2018. Ahead of racing in New Zealand, we caught up with the group on why they have chosen to come and train Down Under.

“It is the first time we are all graduated and not tied down to jobs or any such things, so that helped us in our decision to come over here. The weather is generally rubbish at home [Ireland] during the winter and we end up having to spend much of our time indoors, so we thought it may be nice to do some summer training in the winter,” said the 23-year-old Paul O’Donovan.

“We have been good friends with many of the New Zealand and Australian rowing teams, so we’re looking forward to catching up with them while we’re here,” added O’Driscoll who won gold in the Lightweight Men’s Pair at the 2017 World Rowing Championships in Sarasota.

The group are set to compete in a variety of events in New Zealand and Australia, with some of the group looking to make the move away from Lightweight rowing in the coming months.

O’Driscoll’s pair partner, Mark O’Donovan said: “We will be racing the heavyweight pairs event for the most part of our time overseas. We’ve put on a bit of weight for the past while at home, so we want to compete in the heavyweight events this summer in Europe.”

O’Driscoll added, “We are looking forward to some good competition as New Zealand and Australia often take medals in the heavy sweep events at World Championships.”

The group raced at the recent NZ North Island Championships, with Gary admitting it was a ‘poor showing’ by the athletes,  but the arrival of coach Dominic Casey has meant they are now being put through their paces in New Zealand. “Coach Casey arrived at Karapiro the day after that regatta and has put us through an onslaught of training in preparation for the NZ Nationals this week and also the Australian Nationals next month,” admitted Paul.

“We are most likely not going to be racing lightweight ever again as we have made the move up in weight class in a quest to qualify for the Olympic Games. We will be looking forward to testing our pace this early in our journey,” said O’Driscoll about himself and Mark O’Donovan.

The group have been upping their training regime as they move into the competition period of their trip, with Paul commenting, “We have been mostly rowing on the water with some weight lifting a couple of days each week. The volume of rowing has really increased since the coach arrived; we had it too easy before he joined us. Here in New Zealand they cycle around a lot so we learned how to ride a bike in order to commute to training each day.”

The group are expecting some stiff competition at the 2018 Aon Sydney International Rowing Regatta, with Mark O’Donovan admitting that they did not expect racing to be easy. “Australia is well known for its heavyweight sweepers, they claimed the world title in the Four back in Sarasota and performed well in the other events too. We will be expecting some good racing from these fellas and they will be hard topple with the home advantage.”

With four of Ireland’s top rowers in town, the boys are keen to have as much support as they can out in Penrith.

“We will be looking for as many Irish to get out to Western Sydney as possible to try and upset the home advantage these Aussies will be expecting. The Irish are well known for creating an atmosphere at events, so the more noise and craic the better and then we’ll look forward to the party afterwards!” said Shane O’Driscoll.

With Gary O’Donovan agreeing, Mark jovially added, “Gary is looking to find a girl to settle down with so the more supporters the better, from all nationalities!”