Accomplished professional athlete Katie O’Brien is an award-winning rower representing Ireland in the PR2 W1x category. Katie rowed for UCD Rowing Club and now rows in her home county of Galway at Galway Rowing Club. During the A Final in the World Rowing Cup in 2013 in Eton, Katie finished in an impressive 6th place. Katie went on to win the bronze medal at the 2019 World Rowing Championships in Linz and, in 2022, cruised to victory during the final of the PR2 single sculls at the World Rowing Championships in the Czech Republic. If this wasn’t impressive enough, Katie has also won gold at the Henley Women’s Regatta and the Home International Regatta.

Sport was always a number one priority for Katie. Growing up, she says she tried everything available and loved how it made her feel. ‘I played everything I could when I was in primary school; camogie, football, soccer, and then as I got older, wheelchair basketball and horse riding. Both my siblings were the same, taking part in everything available’. Katie’s first love was horse riding, ‘I got a great buzz out of it. I used to love the feeling of being in the air flying over jumps, especially cross country. The adrenaline rush I received was exciting.’ In 2013, however, rowing took centre stage, and Katie set her sights on competing at the highest level. She remembers how it unfolded, ‘I got involved with rowing after watching the Paralympics in 2013. I emailed them to see how I could get involved and was told about a talent ID day which I went to at UCD. Then, I was asked back to a rowing camp, and the rest is history!’

As a Paralympic rower with Spina Bifida, Katie says that she  has never known any other experience of the world, it has always been part of her life and who she is, ‘I never knew any different, I didn’t, and don’t know what life is like without it! Surgery and hospitals have always been part of my life.’

Read the full feature with Katie O’Brien in our latest January/February issue of Galway Now magazine on shelves now.


Image: Emilija Jefremova