South Africa

Olympic spot in rowers' sights

2015-02-04 19:37
SA rowing team (AP Photo)

Pretoria - Last year's unprecedented medal haul at the 2014 World Rowing Championships will count for nothing if the South African team do not qualify at least four boats for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

National rowing coach Roger Barrow was not taking any chances as this year's World Championships in France is the Olympic qualifying event.

"We have to be top-11 at the world championships in each boat class and while we've got some great results now, the margins between the first and eleventh are only a few seconds," Barrow said on Wednesday.

"I am worried about this, I want us to get the basics well and everyone is healthy which is my first goal."

Barrow led his paddlers to a maiden world title, which went to the men's lightweight sculls duo of John Smith and James Thompson, while Shaun Keeling and Vincent Breet claimed bronze in the men's pair.

To top South Africa's performances, two more Olympic-class boats advanced to the finals while men's coxed pair of Lawrence Brittain and David Hunt, with Willie Morgan as coxswain, finished fifth in their final.

The women's lightweight doubles sculls crew of Kirsten McCann and Ursula Grobler were the surprise package of the championship, coming close to a podium spot, finally finishing in fourth place.

The women's pair of Lee-Ann Persse and Naydene Smith finished sixth in their final.

While Barrow was looking to qualify boats in the lightweight men's double, lightweight women's double, men's pair and women's pair, he would consider a fifth.

Barrow said this would partly depend on whether Brittain had recovered fully from lymph node cancer.

"The heavyweight men seems to be where the most depth is at the moment where we can maybe make a pair and a four," Barrow said.

"The focus is obviously the four Olympic boat classes and if Lawrence Brittain recovers and there are a few more others maybe we can.

"In the heavyweights we have Shaun Keeling and Vincent Breet who finished third, we have Lawrence and Noddy that came fifth in a non-Olympic event.

"But Lawrence had full-blown stage four cancer, lymph nodes but he is recovering well then I have some other guys that won a medal at the student games Jake Green and David Hunt."

Meanwhile, the squad return to Lesotho for a high-altitude training camp in March as part of their preparations for the year.

The rowers have reacted positively to the high-altitude training in the Mountain Kingdom since the Since their first camp at the end of 2013.

"I have similar plans to last year and Lesotho is obviously a big component of that so we go there for three weeks in March and that is where we will be pulling all the boats together," Barrow said.

"We haven't rowed the world championship boats yet, we've been building the guys individually and once we get through Lesotho we will start selections.

"We will use it as the next stepping stone in our preparations for the season for the World Cup series and obviously for the world championships."

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