A lot of the Olympic profiles you’ll read ahead of Tokyo highlight athletes dominating their sports from young ages, destined for success, looking to cement their legacies at the 2021 games. Things are a little different for 39-year-old Irish rower Sanita Puspure, an inspiration to anyone who saw a dream, watched it slip away, and did everything to get it back.
Puspure’s rowing career began in her native Latvia in 2003, when she was an accomplished junior rower with a long career ahead of her. Relocating to Ireland with her husband, Puspure was successful by Irish standards, but failed to make an impact on the world stage throughout her 20s and into her early 30s.
Throughout this time Puspure never gave up. She gained Irish nationality in 2011, and aimed to compete in the 2012 games for Ireland in the double scull, but failed to qualify with her then-partner. However, she did qualify for the single scull, becoming Ireland’s first sole competitor in the event since 1980.
Rejuvenated and ready to compete, hopes were high for Puspure entering the 2016 games in Rio. Unfortunately the Olympics ended in heartbreak, with the rower failing to reach the semi-finals by 0.65 seconds. Crushed by the result, and at the age of 34, there was belief her career may be over.
Nobody was ready for what happened next.
It’s unclear what exactly clicked for Puspure, but the perennially solid, but never dominant rower suddenly shifted gears. She won the 2018 World Championship in the single scull, then repeated in 2019 to take home her second World Championship. Now she’s qualified for her third Olympic games, entering Tokyo as a favorite, and with an opportunity to cap off her career with the ultimate prize in the sport.
Rowing might not garner a lot of attention in the U.S., but it’s going to be worth watching to see if Puspure can can prevail, solidifying her lifelong dream.
How to watch Sanita Puspure in Tokyo
- Women’s single scull semi-finals: Tuesday, July 27 at 9:58 p.m. ET
- Women’s single scull finals: Thursday, July 29 at 7:45 p.m. ET