Newly crowned world champions Paul and Gary O’Donovan are trying not to make too much of their freshly won gold medals from The 2018 World Rowing Championships in Bulgaria.
Speaking at The Olympic Federation of Ireland’s national sponsorship announcement launch on Wednesday, the Skibbereen pair played down their fantastic achievement, of gold in the lightweight double skulls in Plovdiv, although Gary was quick to point out that the success was “fierce exciting at the time.”
“Yeah we’re not feeling too bad now, to be honest with you,” said Paul.
“It’s fierce exciting at the time when you are going through it,” added Gary, “but you know, life goes on.”
As humble as the pair were, the significance of yet another huge victory will certainly be felt. The impact of their success on the world stage has been huge for the sport of rowing in Ireland ever since they burst on the scene in 2016, winning silver at the Rio Olympics.
When asked about their influence on the sport in the country, the O’Donovan’s explained that they frequently hear about the rise in rowing numbers, an increase that they’ve clearly been a massive part of.
“We maybe don’t see a lot of it, but we hear about it,” began Gary.
“We’re not in all the rowing clubs in the country, but you would hear at regattas and stuff that ‘our membership has gone so high’ and a lot of clubs in the cities are struggling to accommodate the volume of kids that are interested, because they only have so many boats, so many coaches and so much room and sometimes they are struggling to deal with it, it’s a bit of a problem.
“The regattas as well have seen record entries in 2017 & 2018 as well so they are getting bigger as well which is great,” said Paul.
In addition to new faces, Gary O’Donovan was also keen to explain that their success and influence is also helping bring people back to rowing who may have fallen out of the sport.
“Something else that is interesting as well is that people are coming back to the sport that might have left, they maybe rowed in university then work would take over and they’d give up.
“Now they are coming back, some are coming back to row, some are coming back in a voluntary capacity to help out in the clubs, and there are a lot more people getting involved.
“It’s great to see, it’s great when people say ‘thanks to you I came back to the sport,’ and that is a nice message that people will give to us when we are at regattas and stuff. “
The O’Donovans are one of a number of success stories from a tremendous summer of Irish sport. The brothers outlined that they looked upon the exploits of the Irish women’s hockey team and Team Ireland in the athletics as inspiration to give them a boost ahead of their World Championships.
“After Rio people said we gave rowing a boost but now it seems that every sport is giving every other sport a boost”, began Gary.
“I felt that during the summer when we were watching the hockey girls doing well, we were away on camp but we were keeping an eye on it and we were thinking “oh my god this is brilliant” and it’s the same with any of the sports whenever you hear people doing well you feed off it and everyone gets confidence out of it, almost like ‘Irish athletes are doing well, I’m an Irish athlete I can do well too'”
Gary and Paul O’Donovan were speaking at the announcement of FBD Insurance and The Olympic Federation of Ireland’s sponsorship of Team Ireland through to 2020.