By Colm O’Connor
Rowing Ireland are concerned by the immediate cancellation of all international events through March, April and May.
That window includes the final Olympic qualification regatta in Lucerne (May 17-19) and World Rowing Cup III at the same venue the following week.
A number of Irish crews were chasing Olympic qualification at those events.
FISA, rowing’s governing body, insist that these events are ‘cancelled and will not be postponed or relocated’ in the light of the global coronavirus pandemic.
No decision has yet been made on how a qualification can now be attained in those categories.
Rowing Ireland Chief Executive Michelle Carpenter said that the development was understandable but will impact on the Women’s Fours and Women’s Lightweight Doubles.
She explained this morning: “We are working with World Rowing at present regarding the allocation of final places for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This will be disappointing for all our athletes as in the sport of rowing it is the boat that qualifies and not the athletes.
“These athletes are dedicated to getting to the Olympic games and representing Ireland, and we are doing everything at present to support them in these challenging times.
This is significant for Rowing Ireland and its athletes as it was hoped that the Women’s Four and Women’s lightweight Double would qualify for the Tokyo Games.
“The Women’s four narrowly missed out on the opportunity to qualify last year at the World Rowing Championships in Linz Austria due to lane allocation and prevailing wind.”
Rowing Ireland awaits more information from World Rowing as to if – and how – the remaining places will be allocated following ongoing discussions with the International Olympic Committee.
At present Irish Rowing is placed second in the world in Olympic boat rankings and has four crews qualified for the Olympic Games in July. Sanita Puspure and the men’s lightweight double of Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan both won gold medals last year together with the Men’s Double of Ronan Byrne and Phil Doyle who took a silver medal. The Women’s pair also qualified at this time, and Katie O’Brien won a bronze medal in the PR2 event (non-Olympic).
The Irish athletes are presently training at the National Rowing Centre in Farran Woods Cork. The centre has been closed to the public since late last week in the interest of the athletes.
FISA, the sports governing body is adopting a wait and see policy in terms of qualification.
A World Rowing official said: “FISA is now in close contact with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) in order to finalise proposals regarding the changes to the respective qualification systems. The next communication will take place on Tuesday, 17 March 2020. FISA understands the tremendous disruption to athletes, crews and all training opportunities as a result of the global pandemic situation and is taking these decisions in the very best and most principled way we can under the circumstances.
“Due to the unprecedented containment measures being taken by governments around the world, we recognise that Member Federations’ planning for Tokyo 2020 qualification, travel, accommodation and equipment movement is changing on a daily basis. FISA is working to gather information, analyse carefully, make decisions and communicate promptly.”