South Africa

Smith, Thompson to defend world title

2015-09-04 18:41
James Thompson amd John Smith (Getty Images)

Johannesburg - A year ago they rowed into the history books as South Africa’s first world champions and on Saturday lightweight men’s double sculls crew James Thompson and John Smith will aim to do the same at the World Rowing Championships in France.

The duo leads three other boats that will be vying for medals in their respective A-finals on Lake Aiguebelette.

Although they boast Olympic gold medals in the four-man boat, Thompson and Smith were an unknown quantity in the lightweight doubles in 2014 when they surprised all and sundry with their gold-medal paddle.

This week the duo coasted through the heats and quarter-finals before flying slightly below the radar in their semi-final to book their place in the final.

Advancing to the final as the slowest qualifiers it had taken some attention away from the South Africans as they go into the final as the underdogs.

“It will be us going at everyone else the hardest, we were the slowest qualifier on the far side of the course so we are not too worried about everyone else,” Smith told Sport24 from France.

South Africa have already accomplished the first part of their goal at the World Championships with three boats qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The lightweight women’s double sculls crew of Kirsten McCann and Ursula Grobler finished second in their semi-final to book their place in Saturday’s final.

London Olympians Naydene Smith and Lee-Ann Persse also secured a women’s pair spot for Rio and will be competing for silverware in their final.

“The Olympic qualifying spot we needed to get the tick but at the end of the day that is not the goal of the year,” Thompson said.

“The goal is the final and we needed to get the tick out of the way and it is good for the team to have got three ticks so far.”

Grobler and McCann has emerged has emerged as serious medal contenders and have been growing in stature since narrowly missing out on a medal at last year’s World Championships finishing in fourth place.

Like the lightweight men’s crew they won a silver medal at the final World Cup Rowing Cup in July.

“In training you could see they are very capable... and we’ve always said these girls are extremely good and their day is gonna come and hopefully it come soon,” Smith said.

The men’s pair crew of Shaun Keeling and David Hunt will be rowing in the B-final and although they are out of contention for a medal they could secure another Olympic berth if they avoid finishing last.

Earlier on Friday, the men’s coxed pair of Leo Davis and Jake Green with Morgan as coxswain just missed out on the bronze medal in their A-final and had to be content with fourth place.

Meanwhile, the LTA mixed coxed four crew of Dieter Rosslee, Shannon Murray, Lucy Perold, Dylan Trollope and Willie Morgan as coxswain finished their A-final in fifth place on Thursday while Sandra Khumalo qualified for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games winning her AS women’s single sculls B-final.

Read more on:    james thompson  |  rowing

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