Athlete of the Month – March 2017
Paul O’Donovan is one half of the Olympic silver medal winning lightweight men’s double sculls. The Irishman and his teammate (and brother) Gary took the world by storm with both their result and their entertaining post-race interviews. Paul then went on to take gold at the World Rowing Championships in the lightweight men’s single sculls. Paul is now a celebrity rower juggling time on top television shows in between training and encouraging a renaissance in Irish rowing. Paul tells World Rowing about life post-Rio.
World Rowing: Has it been hard to get back to training this winter after all the hype that surrounded you after Rio?
Paul O’Donovan: It was difficult alright to get back to doing the training thing for the winter. The whole country went nuts about the whole situation and wanted to do all this celebrating and partying and giving awards and putting us on the TV. So, that took up some of our time but it was nice to give rowing some publicity.
WR: What have you been doing for training?
PO: I’ve been tipping away on the rowing machine for the most part. I went back to college in Dublin shortly after coming home from Rotterdam and I’ve been busy doing that and work placement and the other stuff mentioned above too, so I find doing a bit on the machine now and again the most efficient use of time. We did two and half weeks of training in Seville just after Christmas so we got some lovely sunshine there.
WR: Why did you choose rowing and did you ever consider any other sports at the top level?
PO: I did a few other sports like Gaelic football, rugby and I played soccer at break time in school. Dad used to be involved in the rowing club in Skib and wanted to start coaching so he took myself and Gary (the brother) out to try a bit of that and we enjoyed it so kept at it and eventually it consumed all of our time so we gave up the other sports. Without Dad, we probably wouldn’t have ever tried the rowing.
WR: You seem so laid back outside of the boat – are you different during a race?
PO: Yeah, while rowing during a race the coach likes us to lean forwards on the way up to the catch and then lay back towards the end of the stroke so we alternate between being laid back and forwards to help improve the boat speed.
WR: How do you prepare for a race?
PO: We train very hard all year to get fit for the race and work on the technique also. We take it a little easier then before a race so have more energy to go fast.
WR: Can you ever see yourself rowing with anyone other than your brother Gary?
PO: Yep, I row with lots of different people during training. Gary is quite fast so I often row the double scull with him but if I could row with someone faster I would be happy.
WR: What different strengths do you each bring to the boat?
PO: Gary likes to think about the technique a lot. I am a bit more agricultural and bring a bit of physicality to the boat, so the two of us argue quite a bit during training and racing. Gary has strong arms so he brings them to the boat.
WR: What do you eat before a race?
PO: I don’t eat too much before a race because I have to weigh in so usually I am too fat and have to sweat a little to make the weight. After doing that I eat some bread and jam to give me energy to do the race, but not too much or I could get sick.
WR: What about after?
PO: It’s always good to eat after a race to recover and replenish energy stores that you have used up. They had great steak and spuds in Rio so me and Gary used to eat that after racing.
WR: What sports person do you most admire?
PO: When we were younger we used to look up to the guys in our rowing club that had been to the Olympics and won world championships medals - Tim Harnedy and Euge and Rich Coakely. They were always up for a race on the river at home which was fun for us as youngsters.
WR: What do you do when you’re not rowing?
PO: I go to college in UCD (University College Dublin), so I have to attend lectures and write essays and sit exams and that type of thing. I like to chat with the lads too and drink tea.
WR: What’s your next big goal?
PO: Finish college then try and win some medals for the rowing.
WR: What would be your top tip for an aspiring young rower?
PO: Keep tipping away at it, don’t be in any mad panic because it takes time.