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'I wasn't planning to be here' - Puspure savours third World medal in new double act

The two-time single sculls world champion, 40, took bronze with Kerry’s Zoe Hyde in Sunday’s double sculls final.

Zoe Hyde (L) and Sanita Puspure celebrate their bronze medal at the Worlds.
Zoe Hyde (L) and Sanita Puspure celebrate their bronze medal at the Worlds.
Image: Detlev Seyb/INPHO

IN A BATTLE for women’s double sculls bronze between Ireland and Austria in in Račice, just outside Prague, it was an Irish duo at polar opposite ends of their international careers who timed their finish to perfection to earn their spot on the podium.

A time of 6:52.81 was enough for Sanita Puspure to earn her third World Championship medal after back-to-back golds in the single sculls in 2018 and 2019, this time in the bow seat while comparable newcomer Zoe Hyde pulled with her in the stroke to claim her first.

It marked a brilliant Worlds for the Irish team, with four medals won in total: the unconquerable Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy took gold in the men’s lightweight double sculls as is their wont, while their Skibbereen clubmates Margaret Cremen and Aoife Casey took bronze in the equivalent women’s race.

Galway’s Katie O’Brien also ruled the world in the Para women’s single sculls, with the bronze taken by the new partnership of Hyde and Puspure the final act of a fine week in the Czech Republic.

“A legend behind me, but Sanita’s made the whole experience of rowing amazing, like,” gushed Hyde. “She’s kind of nurtured me a bit,” the Killorglin Rowing Club woman told RTÉ.

“There’s two people involved,” Puspure interjected.

“Her experience just calms you so much down,” Hyde added.

sanita-puspure-and-zoe-hyde-win-a-bronze-medal Puspure and Hyde take bronze ahead of Austria. Source: Detlev Seyb/INPHO

While their double-sculls decider was dominated by European champions Ancuta Bodnar and Simona Radis in the Romanian boat, and the Dutch crew locked in second from a distance out, Hyde and Puspure were forced to go to the well in order to fend off Austrian sisters Katharina and Magdalena Lobnig for bronze.

Ultimately, they had enough in the tank to power their way onto the podium over the last 500 metres, much to Hyde’s elation.

“I had a look over at 750[m] and they were ahead so I was like, ‘Okay, need to put the head down and just give it a go,’” she said. “We knew they’d be fast. We were ahead of them a good bit in the heat but when we watched the semis back, they’d come on a good bit after a couple of days, so we knew it’d probably be between them [and us]; we just knew we had to keep the head down and stroke the best that we could do, and today it worked!”

Asked what it’s like to row as part of a double act with Hyde, Puspure joked that “the team talk is a little bit longer” and she’s “not as lonely in the tent anymore”.

“I have somebody to fire up the dancefloor!” added the Latvian-born Cork woman. “It’s a new experience for me, new challenges, and I’ve been enjoying it so far. It’s been really good. Zoe has a good head on her for a first-year international rower, like, so [I'm] very lucky.”

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sanita-puspure-and-zoe-hyde Puspure and Hyde soak in their moment. Source: Detlev Seyb/INPHO

Explaining how she picked herself up after her shock exit in the single-sculls Olympic semi-final last summer, Puspure admitted that she had initially contemplated retirement before the prospect of rowing with Hyde was put to her by Ireland’s head coach, Guiseppe de Vita.

To be honest, I wasn’t planning to be here this year at all. I just kept training because I couldn’t make a decision. I was actually really close to retiring some day in April and then Guiseppe put us two in a boat and it changed: I was excited to go training again, it was very different.

As for whether she intends to keep rowing as far as the Paris Olympics in two summers’ time, the 40-year-old wasn’t getting carried away: “Ah, we’ll take one month at a time, like!” Puspure laughed. “Let’s get home first and reassess.”

sanita-puspure-and-zoe-hyde Teamwork makes the dream work. Source: Detlev Seyb/INPHO

As the water began to settle at Račice’s Labe Arena, Rowing Ireland’s high performance director, Antonio Maurogiovanni, described Ireland’s medal-laden Worlds as “very emotional”.

“The two days of finals went quite well for us,” said the Italian. “We’re very happy with the results but we usually say, ‘Not satisfied yet.’

“We’re in a good spot. We have created a system, now, that is producing medals across all categories which is what we were aiming for. Now we just need to make sure that we consolidate this platform, this system, to make sure that this is not just a one-off and it can last for long.

We are now on the map of rowing and they are not underestimating Ireland anymore. When they see a crew coming from Ireland, they know they have to pull hard to beat us.

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