Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan ended Ireland’s Olympic gold drought after a thrilling lightweight double sculls victory.
The Cork pair won the men’s final to earn the country’s first gold medal since Kate Taylor’s boxing victory in 2012.
They also became the first male Irish gold medallists since boxer Michael Carruth in 1992, after beating Germany by just 0.86 seconds at the Sea Forest Waterway on Thursday.
#IRL win their first gold medal of #Tokyo2020!
A dramatic race in the lightweight men's double sculls ends in victory for the Irish team. Congratulations!@WorldRowing #Rowing @TeamIreland pic.twitter.com/tssF2Ro3Cw
— Olympics (@Olympics) July 29, 2021
It was O’Donovan’s second Olympic medal after he won silver in the double sculls with brother Gary in Rio. He becomes the first Irish athlete to win Olympic gold and silver medals.
He said: “I didn’t think about too much how I felt at the time, so it’s difficult to compare it from five years after.
“Winning today and silver medal last time, I’ll be a bit happier about that. The silver medal is nice but Fintan did the right job and we went straight to the top at his first Games.
OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS! 🥇
What a morning in Tokyo as Fintan McCarthy & Paul O’Donovan claimed gold to be crowned Olympic champions in a thrilling Lightweight Men’s Double final that saw them cross the line in a time of 6:06.43.
What a day! 🇮🇪💚🥇🇮🇪💚🥇#TeamIreland #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/Gltt8ZcmsR
— Team Ireland (@TeamIreland) July 29, 2021
“The two boys (Germany) have been looking strong all week and made us really work hard. Italy were quick off the start and didn’t let us have it easy.”
The duo had set a new Olympic best in the semi-final of six minutes 05.33 seconds but had to fight for gold.
Germans Jonathan Rommelmann and Jason Osborne were 10 lengths clear after 500m but Ireland slowly closed the gap and managed to edge ahead and were a length in front before the finish line.
President Michael D Higgins paid tribute to the Skibbereen duo, describing their victory as “a tremendous achievement, which gives great inspiration to young people and aspiring athletes all over Ireland.”
“After the magnificent success in women’s rowing yesterday, today we celebrate Ireland’s first Olympic gold medal in rowing, won so deservedly by Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy in the lightweight double sculls.”
— President of Ireland (@PresidentIRL) July 29, 2021
O'Donovan and McCarthy have also become the first Irish rowers in history to claim a gold medal at the Olympics with their win.
It is the second Irish rowing medal of what is proving to be a hugely successful games for the rowers, with the women’s four also winning an earlier bronze medal.
However, there was disappointment for Team Ireland's Sanita Puspure last night in the women's single sculls, as the two-time World champion missed out on a place in tonight's final after finishing fifth in her semi-final.