Olympic gold medallist Paul O’Donovan celebrates UCC medical degree with family

Paul O'Donovan (right) with his brother Gary following his graduation in BMed at UCC. Pic: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Ralph Riegel

OLYMPIC gold medal winner Paul O'Donovan formally added doctor's scrubs and a stethoscope to his Irish rowing gear.

The 29-year-old Cork athlete formally graduated from his medical studies at University College Cork (UCC) - but revealed that, after leaving his student accommodation, he has had to move back in with his grandmother, Mary, as he resumes his intensive rowing training in preparation for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

"She is determined to fatten me up," he joked.

Olympic gold medallist Paul O’Donovan graduates in medicine at UCC

The Skibbereen rower - who won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics and a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Games - graduated with a first-class honours degree despite the enormous training commitments of his rowing career.

Paul was awarded UCC's top sporting accolade in 2018, a Quercus Scholarship.

He began UCC's graduate medicine programme having secured an honours degree in physiotherapy from University College Dublin (UCD).

Paul celebrated in glorious sunshine at UCC with his parents, Trish and Teddy, his brother, Gary a fellow Olympic medallist - and grandmother Mary, whose famous brown bread kept him going during arduous rowing training camps in Cork since he was a teenager.

He was personally congratulated by UCC president John O'Halloran and Quercus Scholarship coordinator Michelle Power.

“The scholarship recognises sporting excellence and Paul embodies all that the programme could wish for in a Quercus Scholar,” Professor O’Halloran said.

Paul admitted he found his medical studies a tougher challenge than the rowing training that helped him win two Olympic medals.

"As for my future plans, I've not thought too far ahead yet," he said.

His medical graduation was marked by a quiet family dinner - and a celebration with his classmates and friends.

"I am going to get back into proper training again now over the next few weeks and pick up my shape properly. Hopefully make the (rowing) team again and get a few regattas later in the season."

"Paris next year is the main aim - I think we can qualify in September if we do well in a regatta there. That is the main challenge."

Paul said that in terms of his medical career, he now favoured specialising in orthopaedic surgery.

"I will be looking forward to that in years ahead. But it will be another few years of studying and working so it will keep me out of trouble for a while."

"I think I will probably do my training in Ireland, to be honest. Towards the end you have go away for a year or two abroad, but I like Ireland and Cork so I will take a post here if they will take me."

Paul said he would not worry too much about juggling his medical and rowing careers - and can't choose between the two because he adored both.

As for relaxation, he spends time in the evenings with friends - and doesn't watch much TV.

"I don't waste time - I don't spend time thinking about things. I just get up and do my training and then I do my work or my study. And a little bit of stress can be a good thing in terms of motivation."

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