Teenager Katie O'Brien from Clarinbridge made history at the weekend when becoming the first female Irish Para-athlete to win gold at Women’s Royal Henley Regatta.
The 17-years-old Tribesman Rowing Club member realised Irish hopes on Sunday when she claimed the The Grosvenor Cup in the adaptive rowing single sculls event.
Enthusiastically cheered on by crews from Cork, Galway, Trinity, UCD and Queens Universities, Katie O'Brien’s Henley journey began on Friday with the time trials. In achieving the fastest time, she advanced straight into the quarter-finals where she met Gillian Lathan from Tees RC. Winning this race easily, she also set a new Henley course record of 4 minutes 30 seconds, before taking on Clare Conlon from the Cantibrian RC in Sunday's final.
In a tough race, O'Brien's excellent sculling ability and determination brought her across the finishing line - three lengths ahead of her opponent after which she was presented with the winning trophy by Anna Watkins, the reigning Olympic Champion from the GB women's double scull which was won at the London Olympics in 2012. Her victory now gives her membership of the elite Vitrix club which is a club open only to winners of Henley Women's Regatta and their coaches.
O'Brien, who is a fifth year student in Yeats college, is trained on the Corrib by Pete Heaney, the national Para-athlete head coach, Anne Giblin, Mike and Enda Gaffney, and in Henley by Joe Cunningham and Martin Kilbane.
O'Brien now has her sights set on next year's World Championships in France, which is an Olympic qualifying regatta for Rio 2016.