Olympic gold medallist Paul O’Donovan graduates with degree in Medicine

Olivia Kelleher

Olympic gold and silver medallist, Paul O’Donovan, has proved he is as adept at time management as he is at rowing having managed to combine winning his fifth gold medal at the World Rowing Championships  last year with finishing the final year of his degree in Medicine.

Speaking following his conferring at UCC today the 29 year old native of Lisheen, in West Cork,  said that he always tries to stay as disciplined as possible. He hardly watches television and won’t be found binge watching shows on Netflix whilst eating pints of ice cream.

He joked that his hectic schedule of books followed by getting in the boat meant that he “hadn’t answered the phone to the mother in a long time.” He admits that his mother (Trish) “wasn’t best pleased with him” over his lack of contact.

Paul attributes his sporting and academic success to “cracking on with things” rather than over thinking or procrastinating.

“I get up and go straight out the door in the morning and do some training and it is done for the day and then I just spend the rest of the day studying in college and that kind of stuff.

"I sometimes get a bit of free times at the weekends and meet some friends and see the family once in a while. It is nice to have them (the family) all here today.

I get much more stressed about school stuff than the rowing with exams and things. A little bit of stress is good because you wouldn’t be motivated to do anything at all without it. A little bit is good for you but not to much.”

He said that having the focus of both rowing and studying alleviates stress by dividing it.

“When you are not rowing you have to think about your studying, so you can’t be thinking ‘am I doing enough training?’ You also have different social outlets.

"Same with school when you are bogged down and panicky about exams you can go on the rowing machine for a while and forget about the world.”

Paul recently moved out of his student accommodation.

He is back to enjoying home cooked dinners and the famous brown bread made by his grandmother Mary Doab, which he and his rowing brother Gary once said was their recipe for sporting success.

“I am out of my student accommodation so I am temporarily back in with my gran (in  for a while. She has been making me dinners all week.”

Paul plans to get back in to his rowing training over the next few weeks with the long term target being the Paris Olympics next year.

“We can qualify in September if we do well at the Regatta in Belgrade in September so that is the main challenge so that is the main challenge.”

In terms of his medical career he  is hoping to specialise in orthopaedic surgery.

“I am looking forward to that. It would involve another few years of studying and working. So it will keep me out of trouble for a while. I’d say I will do my training in Ireland.

Towards the end you have to do a year or two abroad but I kind of like Ireland. And I like Cork, so I will consider taking a post here if they will take me.”

Meanwhile, Paul and his brother Gary were catapulted into the headlines in 2016 when they won Ireland's first ever Olympic medal in rowing after they came second in the final in Rio.

Four years ago he partnered with fellow West Cork rower Fintan McCarthy for lightweight double sculls events with the pair securing first place in the 2019 World Rowing Championships.

They also won gold two years later at the 2021 European Rowing Championships and were gold medallists at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Paul graduated with a BSc in physiotherapist from UCD in 2017. He then went on to study medicine at UCC.

The final year medical student had to juggle studying with training hard to compete in the 2022 World Rowing Championships in the Racine in the Czech Republic last year.

He and his partner Fintan were crowned world champions in the lightweight doubles on Saturday, September 24th, 2022 .

O'Donovan was back to his studies the following Monday having secured his fifth medal at the World Championships.