University of Rhode Island women’s rowing head coach, Shelagh Donohoe, coached USA’s Paralympic rowing team to a silver medal with a time of 3:21.65, just behind gold medal winner Great Britain (3:25.08).
This is Donohoe’s fourth time winning a medal for the United States in any Olympic Games as a rower and coach. As a rower, she was a member of the silver medalist team in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in the women’s straight four event. Donohoe’s accomplishments in the Olympic and Paralympic Games are accompanied by two medals in the world championship’s for rowing, as well as five Atlantic 10 conference championships as rowing coach for URI.
Donohoe’s silver-medal winning Paralympic team consisted of; Jaclyn Smith, Dorian Weber, Zac Burns, Dani Hansen and coxswain Jenny Sichel.
The city of Rio was scrutinized by the national media for an abundance of problems during this past summer’s festivities. Donohoe and her team faced challenges, as is expected when competing at a high level in an unfamiliar place, but overall enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“Brazil did a nice job with the Olympics,” Donohoe said. “I have been to a lot of international regattas, most in Europe, but this was my first experience with South America. The difference is that you had to be careful not to drink the water and to sanitize due to the water quality. Language was also definitely an obstacle, because I don’t know Portuguese and not many people knew English.”
As a coach, Donohoe seems to appreciate moments where the competitive spirit of the sport she loves is tied into the pride she has for the country she calls home. Although she and her team were unable to come away with the gold medal, leaving with any medal is an incredible feat she does not take for granted.
“A silver medal is a great achievement,” Donohoe said. “Of course we were going for the gold but we could of easily of gotten third. The Olympics bring out the best in everyone so I am pleased that the crew is coming back with a silver medal. Not many people win an Olympic medal and our crew has one.”
For a Division I athletic coach, balancing preseason preparation and coaching a team to a Paralympic medal seems like an extremely difficult feat. Donohoe, however, gives all credit to the great athletes she works with during the Games, and the staff she surrounds herself with at URI.
“I think it is hard to juggle my job here at URI and trying to help coach the Paralympic group,” Donohoe said. “I have a great staff at URI and they definitely covered for me.”
With all that Donohoe has accomplished during her coaching career, she still remains focused on the task at hand—preparing her rowing team for another successful season, which kicks off in October.
“Each year is a blank slate,” Donohoe said. “We have a lot of great returners and good freshmen so our base looks good. We need to put in the hours of training we need and go from there.”