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The O'Donovan brothers are looking ahead to Tokyo 2021

Gary and Paul O'Donovan are two of the most recognisable faces in Irish athletics and the pair ar...

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The O'Donovan brothers are looking ahead to Tokyo 2021

Gary and Paul O'Donovan are two of the most recognisable faces in Irish athletics and the pair are gearing up for the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games.

They took home a silver medal in the lightweight double scull in Rio in 2016 and became a sensation as a result due to the outstanding accomplishment and their wit.

The pair are preparing for the next Olympics, due to take place in Tokyo in 2021, and joined Joe Molloy on Tuesday's Off The Ball to discuss the challenges facing them ahead of the Games.

Paul is in a good position to qualify for the Irish rowing team, while Gary has some work to do with four people attempting to take one of the other places as Tokyo draws closer.

While the pair from Cork have experienced extreme highs while working in tandem, ultimately the positions will be filled by rowers with the best times between now and Tokyo 2021

"Whoever has got the best times out of all the combinations will be the crew regardless of how things feel," said Paul when asked how he would react to joining up with another teammate.

He was keen to stress that his position will only be secure if the performances are high between now and Tokyo 2021.

Gary, renowned for his great humour, joked that the rest of the team are catching up to Paul's times.

"We are getting better and Paul is getting worse."

Both men are keen to look forward and not dwell on past glory but Gary admitted his greatest memory from the Rio game was seeing the pleasure people at home felt as they raced.

"The excitement of other people, like other people at home when we were over in Rio. You'd see photos online and video clips of other people in Skibereen getting excited and that's cool to see," he said.

There is an almost telepathic understanding between the pair on the water and they added to their Olympic success with a gold medal at the 2018 World Rowing Championships.

When pressed to describe their understanding they admitted it was difficult to describe but they put it down to hours spent honing both the technical aspects of their craft as well as the stamina involved.

"[You] feel what the other person is doing in the boat, different rhythms, different momentums, different parts of the stroke where you change directions. When the boat starts to get up to speed you can start feeling rhythms a lot better because there is momentum there," Gary said.

It is not clear how long the brothers will be able to compete at the top level. There is uncertainty about whether their rowing weight category will be removed after Tokyo.

If that does occur they would have to go up against larger bodies if they were to compete at the Paris games in 2024.

The Olympics feel "the times [of lightweight rowng] are pretty close to heavyweight and there is not much point in having the two categories," Paul remarked.

"Some of our times have been pretty good. We could be quite competitive. Our lightweight double [times] has gone as fast as heavyweight doubles but I guess can you do it consistently over time when it really comes to the pinch?" Gary added.

Whether or not the O'Donovan brother gets the opportunity to compete together in Tokyo is yet to be set in stone. If they do, however, you can be sure they will entertain the country and the wider world once again.

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Olympic Rowing Rio 2016 The O'Donovan Brothers Tokyo 2021