In Rio 2016, only four Irish female rowers had ever represented Team Ireland at an Olympic Games.
Five years later, a lot has changed. Four Irish female crews are competing in Tokyo – with the number of female rowers amounting to nine. Over DOUBLE the amount that had ever competed previously.
One person who knows just how special things are at the moment for Rowing Ireland is Aileen Crowley, one half of the Pair.
“It’s really nice. I’m very aware that we are apart of something special, said Aileen Crowley.
“You know sometimes people say you don’t realise how special something was until you look back on it – but no, I’m very aware that the group I’m apart of is something new. This is the first time that it’s one group of women and it’s phenomenal.
“I’m very proud I’m apart of it.”
Hopefully now we build a bit of momentum When Gary and Paul medalled in Rio, as soon as you see one crew doing it, you think why can’t I do that too.
So hopefully now that there’s a group of women, we’re creating some momentum for some small Big Strong Girls to come through!
A native of Killorgin, Co.Kerry, Crowley holds a degree in Architecture and is part of Old Collegians Boat Club.
Alongside her fellow Killorglin partner, Monika Dukarska, the Pair qualified for the Olympics with at the 2019 World Rowing Championships in Linz. The former UCD student was part of the Four prior to moving to the Pair. She won bronze at the 2020 European Rowing Championships in Poznan, alongside Aifric Keogh, Fiona Murtagh and Eimear Lambe.
With things well underway now, Crowley have been more excited about competing – even if qualification was some time ago.
”It’s weird because its coming up on two years since we actually qualified, so it’s kind of a distant memory. Qualifying was spectacular., that was a really good day for both of us. The way it works in rowing, it’s the boat that qualifies, not the people in the boat – so it just so happens that two years later we’re still the same people in the boat. So it’s a nice story.”
Rowing is a sport all about timings and strategies. Everything has to be exactly in sync. Having trust and a good relationship with your teammates are important but how important?
“It’s extremely important, said Crowley.
“In rowing, especially in a pair, it’s very intimate, it’s very close spaces for very long periods of time together. We see the absolute worst of each other and we see the absolute best of each other.
“So its a huge ask and a huge demand on someone to accept you for all your good qualities and bad qualities and vice versa.
“So I think it is very important that you have to work to ether and luckily me and Monika, we do work very well together.”
Get to know the other half of the Pair. We spoke to Monika Dukarska! Head over to Her Sport’s YouTube channel for more.