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'We planned to win it all year' - World champion O'Donovan brothers elated by gold medal display in Bulgaria

Paul and Gary O’Donovan secured gold in the men’s lightweight double sculls in Bulgaria on Saturday.

Paul and Gary O'Donovan celebrate with their gold medals.
Paul and Gary O'Donovan celebrate with their gold medals.
Image: Detlev Seyb/INPHO

THE O’DONOVAN BROTHERS described their phenomenal gold medal display at the World Championship Regatta in Bulgaria on Saturday morning as the best race of their entire lives.

The pair succeeded in winning the men’s lightweight double sculls in Plovdiv, becoming the first ever Irish boat to win world championship gold in an Olympic event.

The siblings placed themselves in second spot at the halfway stage, trailing their Italian opponents by a second, before pulling clear of Stefano Oppo and Pietro Ruta and powering to victory in the final 500 metres.

When asked to put their achievement into words, Gary said: “Feels good I’d say. We planned to win it all year, really.

“We’ve been trying hard to win every race and we said that the most important run would be the World Championship final this year, and I think we took our best strokes ever out there for 2,000 metres.

Paul and Gary O'Donovan celebrate with their gold medals The brothers won comfortably in 6:06.81 on Saturday morning in Plovdiv. Source: Detlev Seyb/INPHO

“This is my first ever World Championship final at any level, and it’s Paul’s seventh World Championship final. My record is better than his I think — 100 per cent, he’s got 3/7, so if I can that record up it’d be good!”

The duo replicated the form they showed in Rio two years ago, where they claimed Olympic silver. They reflected that they felt sympathy for their Norwegian opponents, where a late illness saw Kristoffer Brun ruled out.

“One of the Norwegian crew got sick and they had to make a late substitution last night,” Gary explained.

“We were out on the town with them last night,” added Paul. “But we were saying ‘big day tomorrow, we need to be on form’ so we headed away early, around 2.00am.

“By 3.00am Kristopher was buckled and they had to make the substitution then! Early this morning he was still hungover,” the 24-year-old joked.

The Skibbereen brothers said that their latest success represented their greatest every display together.

“That’s the best stroke we’ve ever put together in our lives I’d say,” said Paul.

“We were very strong and very fit and very fast. We trained hard all year, we had two summers where we went down to New Zealand and Australia.

“I’d say a lot of people thought we went down there for a bit of a party, but we went down there with the priority to work hard and that’s what we did. We took advantage of those opportunities.”

“It’s exciting for the whole team,” concluded Gary. “We have four boats in world championship finals. Last year we had four: one Olympic and three in non-Olympic events, this year it’s three Olympic and one non-Olympic.

“All the athletes here on the Irish team all year round have shown great independence, they’ve taken fierce responsibility for themselves and accountability for their own training and their own results.

“It’s evident that the team and the athletes have a lot of belief.”

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Aaron Gallagher

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