Olympics-Rowing-Croatia, New Zealand triumph in pairs; Ireland, Italy take lightweight crowns

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Rowing - Men's Pair - Medal Ceremony - Sea Forest Waterway, Tokyo, Japan - July 29, 2021 Gold medallists Martin Sinkovic of Croatia and Valent Sinkovic of Croatia celebrate in their boat with their medals REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw

TOKYO (Reuters) -Croatia's mighty Sinkovic brothers came out on top in the men's pair and New Zealand's unstoppable crew triumphed in the women's event as Olympic rowing continued on Thursday at Tokyo's blustery Sea Forest Waterway.

Martin Sinkovic and Valent Sinkovic, who won gold in the double sculls in Rio and were pairs world champions in 2018 and 2019 after taking on the sweep discipline, pulled away from the field almost immediately to win in 6:15.29, 1.29 seconds ahead of silver medallists Romania, with Denmark taking bronze.

"We are scullers and it was a little difficult to adapt," said Martin Sinkovic, reflecting on the move to the sweep competition. "The pair is really special, and we had a lot of challenges there. I think we manage it good, psychologically."

After clinching their Wednesday semi-final in a world best time, Kiwis Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler again dazzled, overcoming a slow start and taking the lead shortly after the midway point to win in 6:50.19, with the Russian Olympic Committee team and Canada taking silver and bronze.

Tokyo Bay again dished out windy conditions and the heat continued to punish competitors, with temperatures hovering around 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) on Thursday, as the sun broke through early cloud cover.

Ireland delivered a gutsy performance to win the lightweight men's double sculls, as Rio silver medallist Paul O’Donovan and team mate Fintan McCarthy broke away from Germany heading into the home stretch to claiming gold in 6:06.43.

Italy finished a distant third.

It was Ireland's first Olympic gold since 2012 and its first-ever in the sport.

Thursday’s medal races ended in dramatic fashion as Italy pulled off a stunning victory in the final moments of the lightweight women's double sculls ahead of France and the Netherlands.

Italian Federica Cesarini, who also won the European championships with team mate Valentina Rodini earlier this year, said she planned to celebrate with "a big portion of sushi."

"It's a great feeling," said Cesarini, 24. "It is difficult to describe, but we wanted it, we searched for it and finally we have it."

Britain missed out on the podium by a hundredth of a second.

TeamGB also finished fourth in the women's pair, in a disappointing year for the perennial powerhouse that topped the rowing medal table at the last three Games but thus far have only produced a silver in the men's quad sculls.

They will have two more shots at picking up Olympic gold on Friday, as 2016 double sculls silver medallist Victoria Thornley sets her sights on the women's single sculls final, and their men's eight crew faces off against chief rival Germany.

Friday will also see the highly anticipated women's eight and men's single sculls finals, with the latter featuring 2019 world silver and bronze medallists Sverri Nielsen of Denmark and Norwegian Kjetil Borch, respectively, and Rio silver medallist Damir Martin of Croatia.

German Oliver Zeidler, the world champion two years ago, missed out on the medal race after finishing fourth in his Thursday semi-final round.

(Reporting by Amy Tennery in Tokyo; Editing by Stephen Coates, Peter Rutherford & Shri Navaratnam)

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