Galway rowers add silver as the hunt for Olympic qualification continues

Galway's two women elite rowers are getting closer to their Olympic dream after celebrating more success on the European stage at the weekend.

Aifric Keogh and Fiona Murtagh produced a podium finish as part of the Irish women's four at the European Rowing Championships in Italy to claim silver, adding to the bronze they won last year.

Along with Eimear Lambe and new crew member Emily Hegarty, they had something to prove as they headed to Varese. Desperate to qualify for the Olympics, they needed to show just how good they could be in preparation for their last qualifying event. And they did just that.

Although the Irish women had a slow start, lying in fifth position after the 400m mark as the leaders pulled away, the Irish crew made up the distance. By the 1,500m mark, it was a battle of the Irish, British and defending champions The Netherlands, who looked the stronger.

With the Dutch crew pulling clear, the Irish women increased their stroke, passing the British, before coming alongside the Dutch in the last few metres. Though agonisingly close, they came up just short by four-tenths of a second to claim silver at the championships.

Keogh says the crews hopes for the Olympics have been boosted.

"Although we were confident going into the competition, there were many unknowns. Looking back over the race, I am delighted.

"It means a lot because we are so close to Olympic qualification. A lot of crews from Ireland have already qualified and for us to finish that close to the Dutch is a really huge confidence boost."

She says there was huge competition to be selected for the boat, which is one of the reasons for their success.

Now to Lucerne

Next up is the final Olympic qualifying regatta in Switzerland next month.

"The medal is a huge confidence boost, but we are not be getting too ahead of ourselves. We're delighted with our performance, but our sights are firmly set on the next step of the journey - last chance Olympic qualifiers in Lucerne."

Keogh, Murtagh, and Lambe were part of the four that won bronze at the same event in Poland last year.

Murtagh, who rows out of NUI Galway won the Head of Charles two years in a row, while Bearna native and former Jes student Keogh has been a member of the high-performance team for several years, and set new world records on the erg this year.


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