Despite the shock defeat of Irish boxer and Olympic team captain Paddy Barnes in his first fight on Monday morning, Team Ireland are well on their way to making this one of our country’s most successful Olympics ever.
One such pairing that look set to bring add to our medal haul are Co. Cork brothers Gary and Paul O'Donovan who were just two of the competitors making Monday a great day for Irish rowing.
Flying through their heat in the Lightweight Double Sculls, the siblings from Skibbereen are now through to the semi-final but it was their congratulatory interview with Irish broadcasters that won their place in the hearts of the nation, simply because they couldn’t have sounded more Irish if they’d tried.
Finishing each other’s sentences in their thick Cork accents, Gary, 23, and Paul, 22, definitely have their eye on the prize.
Talking about the incredible Irish support they could hear shouting while they were on the water, the O’Donovan brothers also joked that they wished they could have competed the previous day when winds were stronger, causing all Sunday events to be canceled and rescheduled for the next day. We can imagine they have lots of practice rowing against high winds while they training on the Cork coast.
“With 500m to go, I heard someone roaring at me from the grandstand, and that's a good bit, it's 250m I could hear him from - Most of them are shouting ‘Up Skibb!’” they said.
“To have them all here and everyone have such smiling faces and everyone cheering for us after the race, it's a huge honor, first to be representing our country, and then to have a load of people screaming us on, it's brilliant.”
Hopes are high for the O’Donovan brothers, who are the current European champions, as they enter the semi-final heat, while fellow rowers Sinead Jennings and Claire Lambe are hoping to follow their lead in the women’s equivalent after their own second place finish during the heats.
As for the other Irish Olympians, Ireland has yet to pick up a medal but have seen some incredible performances from our competitors so far, especially that of gymnast Kieran Behan, who had hoped for a top 24 finish that would bring him through to the final. Ahead of his specialty, the floor routine, confidence remained high but it appeared he had injured his leg as he landed the very end of the routine and had to be taken from the arena in a wheelchair. After it was confirmed his knee was dislocated, Behan revealed that the injury had in fact occurred during the routine but he decided to continue.
“I nearly stopped after the first move but, I just thought, go for it and, yeah, then I could feel it completely go after my dismount,” he told the42.ie.
“Just as soon as my feet touched the ground on that first tumble and the knee went, I just knew that it was about survival and just getting through the rest of the routine.”
Having already overcome many cases of bad luck in his career and even to get to the Olympics was an achievement. At ten he was diagnosed with a tumor in his leg and complications during surgery left him in a wheelchair.
On his return he suffered another serious head injury while on the high bar which left him in a wheelchair with doctors saying he would never walk again.
Despite yet further injuries, he became only the second male gymnast to compete in the Olympics in London 2012 and returned to Rio with hopes of at least reaching the final.
Both rowing pairs will compete in their respective semi-finals tomorrow, as will Sanita Puspure in the women’s single sculls.