Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy wrote their names into the history books with a stirring victory in the men’s lightweight double sculls final.
The Irish duo lived up to their favourites status to power to victory at the Sea Forest Waterway, edging out Germany who had pushed them all the way, with Italy finishing a distant third.
Drawn in lane three with Germany alongside them in lane four, O’Donovan and McCarthy made a steady start to the race as the Germans set the early pace.
Germany looked to stretch away in the early stages and were clear of both Italy in second and third-placed Ireland at the 500m mark.
Trailing the leaders by 1.4 seconds at that stage, O’Donovan and McCarthy didn’t panic and stuck to their gameplan. Approaching the midway stage they had overtaken Italy into second place and reduced the German lead to 0.62 of a second.
From there on out O’Donovan and McCarthy took control of the race.
They caught the Germans just before the 1,500m mark, edging ahead and while Germany fought back to momentarily drew level again, the Irish pair increased their stroke rate and pulled away.
With the Irish boat streaking to victory in the final 300m, the German duo knew they were beaten and began to tire, with O’Donovan and McCarthy crossing the finish line more than half a boat length ahead, winning by .86 of a second.
“The race plan we had, we do it all the time and it seems to work out okay for us,” O’Donovan told RTÉ Sport afterwards.
“We kind of knew that Italy and Germany always go hard, you can count on that. Then they slow down a bit. Once we were catching up to them, we knew that we were at a sustainable pace and kept going. Germany made it hard for us, that’s for sure.
“I don’t really think about medals at all. We are just here trying to be the best we can be and hopefully, that will be the best of them. Today it was. We are pleased with it.
“You don’t really take in the history of the moment. You’d be well tired after the race.”
“It feels really good,” McCarthy added.
“It is bizarre, I have been pretty chilled out all day. Usually, I would be a bit more nervous. I felt really prepared and you know how that expectation and stuff doesn’t really weigh too heavily on us. We just do what we always do as best we can and it worked.”
President Michael D Higgins has sent a message of congratulations to the gold medallists.
The President wrote on Twitter: “After the magnificent success in women’s rowing yesterday, today we celebrate Ireland’s first Olympic gold medal in rowing, won so deservedly by Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy in the lightweight double sculls.
“Theirs is a tremendous achievement, which gives great inspiration to young people and aspiring athletes all over Ireland.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin also offered his congratulations, calling it “an outstanding gold medal”.
He tweeted: “Breathtaking victory in the lightweight double sculls – a race that will live long in history. A special day for Irish rowing and the Irish people.”