FIRST MEDAL SECURED
Aifric Keogh and Fiona Murtagh from Galway, Eimear Lambe from Dublin and Emily Hegarty from Rowing Central in Skibbereen have secured Ireland’s first medal of the Games taking third place and the four bronze medals it brings with it in the Women’s Four.
“We are an aerobic crew and they knew we’d be coming,” said Lambe being interviewed by RTÉ’s Claire McNamara after a storming second-half comeback.
The team came together just over a year ago and secured qualification for the games in May. A stunning performance in reaching the final finishing within a fifth of a second of Gold medallists Australia announced their arrival as serious contenders and they delivered overtaking China, then France and finally Team GB to secure the precious metal.
Eimear Lambe’s sister Claire who now works with Rowing Ireland made it to a final in Rio and this is one that will have the flags flying in Cabra.
O’DONOVAN AND MCCARTHY LOOKING STRONG
Paul O’Donovan secured Silver with his Brother Gary in Rio, lighting the spark that has exploded into life for Rowing Ireland and his Semi-Final performance alongside Fintan McCarthy makes them Gold medal favourites for tonight’s Final, on at 01:50 Irish time.
“We are happy with our race, the conditions were tough, but nothing that we weren’t prepared for,” said McCarthy, another of the Skibbereen graduates. “I saw the time when I finished the race, on the splits, but I didn’t want to believe it until we saw it after. Now we will just concentrate on tomorrow’s final. We expect a tough battle from the Italians.”
WALKER ON THE MOVE
Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov was the Katie Taylor of Uzbekistan coming into the games. World Champion, number one seed and a powerhouse of speed and strength. He came up against Kurt Walker in this morning’s Round of 16 though and all that counted for nothing.
“Walker is bouncing. He’s everywhere in the ring apart from on the gloves of Mirzakhalilov,” said commentator Hugh Cahill as he bobbed, weaved a jabbed his way to a first-round win on four of the five judges cards.
The Ukrainian judge was the outlier and a stronger round for the Uzbek in the second saw him joined by the Cuban judge so it was going to be tight.
A cut to his right eye was joined by one to his left but “they were only scratches” according to Walker after the fight and in the end it was the Lisburn man in Blue who came through on a split decision.
He now joins Aidan Walsh in being only one more fight away from a guaranteed medal.
TWO MORE TOP TENS
The Irish Men’s Rugby Sevens looked to have run their race when going down to Kenya in a reverse of the Group Stage game in their playoff for 9th and 10th in the concluding stages of the tournament.
They do though end up with a Top Ten finishing position, a fact that is important in judging the depth of progress that Ireland is making at the highest level. We are looking at that in relation to High-performance Strategy elsewhere this morning on Sport for Business.
Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne also secured an overall tenth after their B Final performance in the Men’s Double Scull in the rowing Regatta.
HOCKEY NOW LOOKING FOR INDIAN TAKEAWAY
A dramatic fourth-quarter surge from Team Ireland at the Women’s Hockey saw them come back from 3-0 down to 3-2 with nine minutes remaining against Germany this morning. A disputed German goal in the dying minutes made it look more comfortable than it was but Ireland would not be afraid of a return meeting in the knockout phase if that comes to pass.
With four teams from six in the group progressing to the Quarter Finals the key game is now Friday’s match against India, who have lost their opening three games. Ireland’s win over South Africa in Game One means that victory will secure that spot with the game against Great Britain serving as a potential backup.
FLETCHER DOWNED IN LAST FOUR SECONDS
Megan Fletcher who joined Team Ireland from Team GB between Rio and Tokyo became Ireland’s second-ever Judo competitor but went out to her Austrian opponent who scored a Waza-Ari with only four seconds on the clock.
In case you are ever asked (2022 Super Quiz competitors please take note) a waza-ari is the second-highest scoring move in the sport, ahead of a Yoko but behind a bout ending Ippon.
49er DREAM STILL FLYING ON THE WATER
Sailors Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove were back out on the water today in the 49er class races, with Races 2, 3 and 4 taking place after yesterday’s storm delay. They added a 12th, 13th and 14th to their first race win and now lie in 11th place overall.
SIMONE BILES MENTAL WELLBEING
Simone Biles opening vault was the worst of her Olympic Career and within minutes she had withdrawn from the team competition saying afterwards that she did not want to risk her teammates’ chances of a medal by not being in the right place mentally.
Some were quick to jump on her distress saying that mental fortitude was one of the key elements that make a champion but her post-competition interview was a masterclass in putting the current heightened awareness of mental wellbeing in its proper context.
“We should be out there having fun and sometimes that’s just not the case.”
“I say put mental health first because if you don’t you are not going to enjoy it and you are not going to succeed as much as you want to. Sometimes it is best to sit out even the big competitions because it shows what a strong competitor and a person you really are, rather than just battle through it.”
If she has a calf strain a pulled muscle in her back nobody would think any less of her for withdrawing but are we not always told that the most important element of a champion is a mindset and who is to say that a days rest might not see her bounce back in the individual finals.
She came back to her teammates, cheered them to Silver and carried bags of chalk to them in their prep, switching from superstar to one of the gang, and showing perhaps more as a role model than in winning Gold.
A key point to bear in mind of course is that Biles, like Naomi Osaka before her, has already scaled the mountain of success at the highest level.
Of even greater relevance is the torment she has suffered through the Nasser sex abuse scandal that engulfed US Gymnastics between these two games.
Three years ago Biles spoke of that saying “Most of you know me as a happy, giggle, energetic girl but lately I’ve felt a little bit broke. The more I try to shut off the voice in my head, the louder it screams.”
She was 21 years old at the time, in possession of 25 Olympic and World Championship medals.
Whether a rising star could afford to step back from ‘battling through it’ is a question that many more will face in days, months and years to come. At the end of those days only the individual will know what they need to do to make things work for themselves.
Athletes are human beings and not machines. Medals are pieces of metal that can change a life but should never define it exclusively.
Sometimes we forget the toll that performing for our pleasure takes.
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