Galway's world medallist in race to find an Olympic partner

Wanted : Male team mate for para-rower

Galway’s Katie O’Brien celebrates a podium finish in the World Rowing Championships in Austria.

Galway’s Katie O’Brien celebrates a podium finish in the World Rowing Championships in Austria.

Galway's Katie O'Brien celebrated her 23rd birthday at the weekend with a podium finish at the World Rowing Championship in Austria.

The Clarinbridge para-rower, on her return to competition after a two-years break, bagged the bronze medal in the women's PR2 final, won by Australian Kathryn Ross with Annika van Der Meer of the Netherlands taking silver.

It is a massive achievement for the Tribesmen Rowing Club oarswoman who is now in a race against time to find a partner in a bid to qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. While Katie's single sculls class is on the World Championship calendar, it is not available at the Olympics.

Katie now has until next May to find and train with a male partner for the mixed event, but is once again finding it a difficult task- a previous possible partner was classified for a different event.

"It has been difficult for the last few years to find someone. The criteria is quite specific for the event," she says.

"It must be someone with reduced mobility of the lower limbs, but who has arm and shoulder mobility, and upper body strength."

The applicant does not need to be an oarsman, but someone who is willing to train hard until the last qualifying event next May.

"A lot of times people do look at moving into para-rowing from another sport, but unfortunately there is no one on the radar at the moment."

In addition to fulfilling the criteria for para-rowing, any possible partner needs an Irish passport - wherever they are in the world.

"No age requirement - there are rowers all ages," she says."But we would want to be in the boat a good bit prior to D day next May."

Katie has always been a keen athlete despite her disabilities - something of a family trait with brother Sean a member of the Connacht Rugby senior squad.

She became Ireland’s first para-rower at the prestigious Henley regatta where she set new course record on her way to Ireland’s first gold at the venue since 2010, but then missed the opportunity to compete at the Rio Olympics - also due to a lack of partner.

Now she has a world medal to add to the collection - a super surprise having only returned to the boat last September.

"I had no expectation, but to go out and enjoy the experience. Yes, I was going to be competitive, but I didn't see a podium finish."

Among the contestants was the doyen of the class for many year - Annika van Der Meer of the Netherlands, who on this occasion finished in second place.

"I have been in awe of her for years, and I found myself race alongside her. At different times in the race I caught her out the corner of my eye and she hadn't gone out of sight. That really encouraged me and kept me going, " she says.

Although the Dutch woman held onto second, Katie is delighted she is now on the rowing radar. And she wants to stay that way if she can find a suitable rowing partner.

If there is any one out there, she says, please contact Rowing Ireland.



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