< Back

Mark O'Donovan of Skibbereen

By Avery Bleichfeld
Posted on October 21, 2018
Mark O'Donovan of Skibbereen

His name is O’Donovan, he’s a lightweight rower, he rows for the Irish club Skibbereen in County Cork. But he is not one of the brothers who won the silver medal in the lightweight doubles at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and became global celebrities when video of a witty pre-race interview went viral. Mark O’Donovan does find himself getting mixed up with brothers Gary and Paul a lot though.

“It does [happen a lot], yeah,” said Mark O’Donovan, before the start of Saturday’s champ doubles event. “We all kind of have the same second name as them — the same last name — and so there’s sort of four of us in it and we all kind of talk the same and everything.”

Like his O’Donovan clubmates, Mark is a world champion, winning gold with partner Shane Discoll in the lighweight pair at Sarasota in 2017. With no pair event in the Head of the Charles, O’Donovan and Driscoll row the double. Coming to the Head of the Charles, and to Boston, holds a special place in O’Donovan’s heart.

“It kind of feels like home, there are a lot of Irish people over here and you’d meet different ones,” O’Donovan said. “Everyone’s so helpful, it’s nice to be home.”

He describes the history of the city as a link to his experience here.

“The Irish people built Boston, so, you know, it’s good I’m coming over and seeing how they built it and it’s great to see the history of the Irish here,” O’Donovan said. “People immigrated, back in the famine in Ireland, when there wasn’t as much food around and the British Empire are ruling, and we had people fled and a lot of them settled in Boston and they built their families, their homes here.”

This is his second time at the Head of Charles, and while he and his rowing partner Shane O’Driscoll are “in and out this time,” they got the chance to see more of the sights last year.

“We did an awful lot last time,” O’Donovan said. “We were staying with a fellow who was living in Cambridge, and he showed us all around Boston, so he was very nice to us, so we saw everything.”

O’Donovan said the pair race is one of the races he enjoys the most, but when he does other races he takes the skills he practices back with him.

“The double kind of compliments it, cause it’s kind of a similar boat speed and then, because it’s a little bit faster, it kind of teaches you to turn the boat a little bit quicker, so then when you transfer that into the pair it really help,” O’Donovan said. “Similar to a quad, it just helps you just blend a bit better or gets your timing a bit better and it kind of upskills you to bring back to the boat I’m primarily in, which is the pair.”

While he openly describes his love of the sport, he has trouble defining why he keeps coming back to it.

“Is it that I’m more insane than a few of them?” O’Donovan said. “I don’t know what you’d say, but I just really enjoy it.”

With all the preparation and training required for rowing, however, it’s the simple things, sometimes, that count. His favorite sight in Boston?

“The bars,” O’Donovan said. “The pub scene is pretty good.”

By Avery Bleichfeld
Posted on October 21, 2018