Paul O'Donovan's achievements this year are truly remarkable and he's only 22 4 years ago

Paul O'Donovan's achievements this year are truly remarkable and he's only 22

"You end up convincing yourself that you just love this feeling of pain and you just want more and more and more of it, and you keep going and going."

That's Paul O'Donovan trying to explain in an interview with The Examiner how it is possible for him to go beyond the pain barrier - to keep going when there is absolutely nothing left in the tank.


The most successful athletes or sports people in the world are often those who are willing to go that extra mile, who can somehow find, deep within themselves, that extra bit of energy or drive whilst under the greatest pressure or physical torment.

O'Donovan is one of these.

Paul O'Donovan celebrates winning gold 27/8/2016

The interview which O'Donovan's quote was taken from took place approximately a month before the Olympics, a month before himself and his brother, Gary, endeared themselves to the Irish public with their down-to-earth and often hilarious post-race interviews.

However, in a way, the 'viral' nature of their appeal somehow took away from their real achievements.

The two of them had just won Ireland's first ever medal in one of the oldest Olympic sports in existence.

Not to be content with this incredible achievement, two weeks later, Paul added a world championship gold medal to accompany the Olympic silver sitting proudly around his neck.


Ireland's success at rowing.

Since the establishment of the Irish Amateur Rowing Union (IARU) in 1899 and before O'Donovan won gold in Rotterdam this year, Ireland had only won five gold medals in any rowing class at the world championships - the last of which came from Limerick's Sam Lynch in 2002.

Olympic medals have painfully alluded Irish rowers over the years, so much that the O'Donovans' silver medal success was emotionally praised by Neville Maxwell who himself had finished in fourth place at the 1996 Olympiad in Atlanta.


This emotion is an accurate representation of the magnitude of this achievement.

So not only did Paul, alongside his brother Gary, finally end Ireland's heartbreak with regards to the Olympics but he incredibly went on to win a gold medal just two weeks later in a different class, the lightweight single sculls.

Physical and Technical Demands 


It's not solely Ireland's record in rowing on the world-stage which highlights the magnitude of O'Donovan's achievement.

But rowing is one of the most physically demanding and technically challenging sports in the world.

To the untrained eye it may seem to be the case that the fittest and strongest competitors will be victorious but to "pull like a dog" is not the only aspect of the sport which needs to be mastered.

The beauty and often the difficulty surrounding the sport is that there are so many different facets involved in the rowing stroke to master.


One dip in concentration could be the difference between taking home a medal or being resigned to a bitterly disappointing fourth place finish.


Let us take a typical 2,000 m race that you would find in the Olympics or World Championships, the stroke rate for most rowers in a race of this magnitude would be somewhere in the region of 30-34 strokes per minute with competitors approaching the high 30's as they engage in a sprint.

O'Donovan secured his world championship gold medal in an approximate time of 7.5 minutes. Assuming a 34 stroke per minute average, that's around 255 strokes during the entire race.

255 strokes which have to be perfect.

Strokes where the blades of the oars simultaneously need to enter and exit the water at the exact same time and at the correct angle - while every muscle in your body is screaming for you to stop what you are doing.

As O'Donovan says, you need to convince yourself to love the pain.

The Irish Sportsperson of the Year 

So when it comes to considering who should be Irish Sportsperson of the Year, it impossible to look past Paul O'Donovan.

In one calendar year, Paul has won Ireland's first gold medal at a world championship since 2002 in addition to winning European gold and Olympic silver alongside his brother, Gary.

Ireland doesn't exactly secure this sort of medal haul in any sport in any given year.

In addition to this, Paul O'Donovan is only 22 years old.

To achieve so much in a sport at such a tender age is a testament to the ambition, drive and dedication he has shown not only this year but throughout his rowing career.

Unfortunately, the category is for sportsperson of the year but this piece in no way takes away the achievements of Paul's brother, Gary, who himself would have been in contention if it wasn't for Paul's achievement in securing a gold medal in Rotterdam.