Johannesburg - When he received news of his and partner Shaun Keeling’s nomination for team of the year at the SA Sports Awards, rower Lawrence Brittain was already sporting the beginnings of a beer belly.
After claiming Olympic silver by going from fourth to second in the last 1 000m in the men’s coxless pairs in August, the pair’s heroics have been limited to eating whatever they want, and giving motivational talks at schools and corporate organisations.
But for Brittain, who admits he may have enjoyed his newfound freedom from the tyranny of training “a little too much”, the news is a pleasant reminder of a sensational year that was.
“It’s very cool [the nomination]. I’m very excited. It’s been such an epic year. I think [fellow nominees Mamelodi] Sundowns will be favourites going in, but we definitely stand a chance,” he says.
Making the year particularly epic for Brittain was his well-documented recovery from cancer to claim silver alongside Keeling, which has given him more than just the usual platitudes on his public-speaking tour.
“It’s such a crazy story – it still blows my mind when I think about it. It’s nice to be able to share a powerful story like that with others who suffer from cancer,” he says.
“Hopefully, it gives them belief because it’s changed me in a huge way. It was very tough being sick and still training, and it knocked me because I didn’t know at the time.
“But after being diagnosed, being able to compete and produce a result like that has given us belief in training. Now we know we can box with anyone because we’re not a Mickey Mouse team any more.”
Being the smallest team on the nominees’ list (the other team in contention are the Blitzboks, who won bronze at the Olympics), Brittain was at pains to explain that they still constitute a team.
“It’s very much a team sport because you’re only as strong as the weakest link in the team. In the pairs, it’s even more exaggerated because each person has their side of the boat to deal with,” he says.