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By Amy Tennery
TOKYO (Reuters) - It's beginning to look like third time is the charm for Sanita Puspure.
The 39-year-old Irishwoman reached her first Olympic semi-final on Sunday, continuing her remarkable run in the single sculls after coming up short in Rio and London.
On the hunt for that elusive piece of Olympic hardware, she overcame a slow start to chase down world bronze medallist Kara Kohler of the United States before clinching the quarter-final round in 7:58.30 to advance.
"My form is going to go up with every race," she told reporters. "Technical execution could be a little bit better but I have still time to work on it, I’m getting used to the water conditions."
She's part of an Irish cohort who just five years ago picked up their first Olympic rowing medal and now have several boats in Tokyo's latter rounds, including the women's pair and lightweight double sculls crews, who advanced out of repechage Sunday into the semi-final.
Paul O'Donovan, who picked up silver with his brother in Rio, will contend in Wednesday's semi-final with team mate Fintan McCarthy, while the Irish women's four compete for the podium earlier that same day.
"We’ve come a long way and it’s really exciting to see the whole team perform well," said Puspure, who picked up back-to-back world titles in 2018 and 2019.
'WAITING TO ATTACK'
A contentious men's single sculls field came into sharper focus, as the 2019 World Championship's gold, silver and bronze medallists - German Oliver Zeider, Denmark's Sverri Nielsen and Norwegian Kjetil Borch, respectively - each handily won their respective quarter-final races.
For 31-year-old Borch, who picked up the double sculls bronze in Rio and gold at the 2018 World Championships, Sunday's win came down to strategy.
"I knew it was going to be quite a long race because of the headwind," said Borch, who will meet Croatian Olympic silver medallist Damir Martin in Thursday's semi-final. "I just sat there and let the others burn their amount of coal, and I was just sitting there and waiting to attack."
The broiling hot and fan-free Sea Forest Waterway was unforgiving to some, however: Germany's title defence in the men’s quad sculls came to a crushing end as its crew failed to crack the top two in the repechage.
The day got off to a jarring start as the Netherlands Olympic Committee (NOCNSF) disclosed that Dutch rowing coach Josy Verdonkschot tested positive for COVID-19, days after 21-year-old Dutch single sculls competitor Finn Florijn and another staff member on the also team tested positive.
Sunday marked the last day of action before a weather-mandated two-day hiatus, as organisers again rearranged the competition programme due to an 'adverse weather' forecast.
Olympic rowing is due to resume on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in Tokyo; Editing by Stephen Coates)