Emily Hegarty celebrates after finishing third place in the Women’s Four final with Ireland team-mates Aifric Keogh, Fiona Murtagh, Eimear Lambe during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Gold for Cork duo

Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy were crowned Olympic champions this morning, as they rowed to gold in a thrilling final of the Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls.

The Skibbereen crew were in second place for much of the race, but they hit the lead with 700m to go and took the win by 0.86 of a second on the line ahead of the Germans.

Speaking after the race, McCarthy said: “It feels pretty good. We can’t complain! We had a really good race – but a tough one. The Germans were flying so it was hard. I was really excited when we first crossed the line and there was a bit of relief as well. We have had a good time all week, so we are a bit sad that it is all over.”

There was disappointment for Cork’s medal favourite Sanita Puspure in the semi-finals of the Women’s Single, where she finished fifth in her race.

Yesterday Ireland and Cork secured an historic first medal at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.

Yesterday morning, Skibbereen native Emily Hegarty and teammates Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe and Fiona Murtagh took bronze in the Women’s Four Rowing final.

The girls’ brilliant performance makes them the first ever Irish women’s rowing team to win an Olympic medal.

The Irish quartet were lying fifth at the halfway point when they began to push past China, increasing the pressure on Great Britain before eventually leaving them in their wake in the closing stages to take home the bronze.

The Australian crew, who they had faced in the heats earlier this week, took the gold medal, pipping the Netherlands who took the silver.

Speaking after the race, the girls said: “The race was a blur really. It was very quick.

“It wasn’t the best race, but we always say we want to be the best on our worst day too, and we pulled that off.”

It was a good morning all round for Cork rowers with another standout display coming from the Lightweight Men’s Double Scull of Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan.

The lads, who were strong medal contenders going into the games, dominated their semi-final, winning with a world’s best time of 6:05.33, two seconds clear of second placed Italy.

Belgium took the third and final spot in the A Final which took place this morning (Thursday).

Speaking after the semi-final, McCarthy said: “We are happy with our race. The conditions were tough but nothing that we weren't prepared for. 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.”

In the semi-finals of the Lightweight Women’s Double, Skibb-native Aoife Casey and Rochestown rowing machine Margaret Cremen also impressed, finishing fifth on the line with 6:49.24 and qualifying for today’s B Final.

Earlier on, the Men’s Double Scull of Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne finished fourth in their B Final, resulting in a tenth overall finish place.

World champion and medal prospect Sanita Puspure was disappointed to finish fifth in the Women’s Single Sculls semi-final, so she will qualify for the B Final.

The Ballincollig resident, 39, has won back-to-back world titles in 2019 and 2020.

In athletics, Cork’s Aoife Cooke will be looking to shave even more time off her already impressive personal best when she runs the Women’s Marathon on the final day of the games next month.

Elsewhere, Irish boxer Kurt Walker was on hand to deliver a huge upset by defeating reigning World Champion and number one seed Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov of Uzbekistan in his Men’s Featherweight Round of 16. Walker’s victory by split decision now puts him one bout away from a guaranteed medal as he looks forward to Sunday morning’s semi-final against American Duke Ragan.