Ireland has won its first medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as Emily Hegarty, Fiona Murtagh, Eimear Lambe, and Aifric Keogh claimed Bronze in the Women's Four rowing on Wednesday.
The medal-winning Irish Olympians finished in third place with a time of 6:20:46, just five seconds behind Silver medalists the Netherlands, who was less than a second behind Gold medalists Australia.
This is Ireland's first Olympic medal for female rowers. In 2016, Paul and Gary O'Donovan claimed Ireland's first-ever rowing Olympic medal in Rio - Paul is back again this year on a quest for another Olympic medal.
The female rowers' Olympic medal, of course, wasn't a given. The team only qualified at the last chance back in May and Wednesday's race was dramatic.
Padraic Daly of Rowing Ireland notes: "Inside the last 500m, Great Britain and China were sharing third, until Hegarty upped the rate to 43, and the crew responded, timing their attack to perfection.
"While Australia struck the killer blow to take gold ahead of the Netherlands, Ireland came storming back from fifth place to blow away China and GB and claim the bronze."
After the big win, Hegarty told The Irish Times: “We could never experience anything like this again, so it’s a case of enjoying it, living in it, it’s once in a lifetime.”
Reflecting on the race, Keogh said: “It was a bit touch and go.
"Throughout the race, I was like, ‘we could be fourth, fifth’. Eimear makes the strategy calls, and I tell us where we are in the field. I was looking out and I was like ‘Oh god’ in my head –we were slipping back but we said to ourselves if that happens we go early, and in the last 1km we backed ourselves."
Murtagh said: “We definitely didn’t make it easy, but Eimear made the call, and we just all backed ourselves, backed each other, stayed really loose, and just went for it.”
“It’s something for the future," Lambe said, "and hopefully this will be the first of many, and hopefully it gives the young girls coming up now a bit of hope that this is completely possible. If we can do it anyone can. Even though we were down we knew to back ourselves."
As expected, the female Irish rowers were met with rounds of congratulations.
While you were sleeping…July 28, 2021
Sport Ireland said the exciting race came to a "stirring finish:"
Team Ireland have their first medal #Tokyo2020 after the quartet of Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh & Emily Hegarty produced a stirring finish to take the bronze medal in the women's four final. 💚🇮🇪💚 #WomeninSportIRE#OlympicGames #Rowing pic.twitter.com/hET5ecKxQ8— Sport Ireland (@sportireland) July 28, 2021
Rowing Ireland noted how the four women made history:
Our Olympic Medalists!
First female athletes to win an Olympic Medal in rowing for Ireland 🥉🥉🥉🥉July 28, 2021
Ireland's Embassy in Japan said that the future is bright for Irish rowing, and noted that Ambassador Paul Kavanagh was on hand to cheer the rowers along:
Terrific, inspiring last 500m by Ireland’s young Women’s Four to win Olympic Bronze. A bright future ahead! Olympic Federation of Ireland & Ambassador Kavanagh cheering them on! Comhghairdeas! @RowingIreland @TeamIreland @sportireland @GlobalIrish @IJCC_Tokyo @injtokyo @dfatirl pic.twitter.com/oVM8p2Dx4m— Ireland in Japan (@IrishEmbJapanEN) July 28, 2021
The Embassy earlier shared this graphic of Team Ireland's women's four team:
アイルランドでは、女子のボート競技人口が増えており、 #Tokyo2020 ボート競技に出場する13名中9名が女子🚣♀️July 24, 2021
You can watch the RTE's interview with the Bronze medal winning Irish Olympians here: