SA para-rowers (Supplied by sascoc.co.za)
Poznan - As the Rio Paralympics draw closer, South Africa’s two para-rowing boats both put in impressive performances at the World Rowing Cup 3 in Poznan, Poland over the weekend.
The Mix4LTA put in a silver-medal winning performance in the A Final, with Shannon Murray, Lucy Perold, Dylan Trollope, Dieter Rosslee and cox Willie Morgan only beaten by the Canadian combination.
And then at the 2012 London Games, Paralympian Sandra Khumalo ended sixth in the ASWomen1X final.
The South African quartet clocked 3min 26.580 seconds for the 2000 metre course, compared to Canada’s 3:22.810 with Ukraine, France, Germany and Italy rounding off the six-boat final.
This was the last competition for the South Africans before their big day in Rio.
National para-rowing coach Marco Galeone, said: "We don’t have any other international or domestic races scheduled.
"And while not all the countries races in Poznan, it was pretty close to what we can expect in Rio."
Looking ahead to Rio, Galeone acknowledges the task at hand, "It will be very tough as all the crews are very close but all our guys are on track and we’re determined to keep on working hard and find still more speed. And of course, once you make the final it’s 50/50 whether you get a medal or not!
"In the Mix4+LTA, the favourites remain Great Britain and United States while in the ASw1x Norway and Israel will be the ones to watch."
The squad will now carry on training at their High Performance Centre at the University of Johannesburg and at Victoria Lake Canoe club before heading off to Tzaneen, Mpumalanga for a five-week tapering camp.
Murray gave Road to Rio 2016 some insight from inside the boat: "The week in Poland was great. Racing on the Thursday (June 16) for the heats was quite hectic, with the draw changing at the last minute because Great Britain pulled out at the last minute as one of their athletes became ill. So we raced against Ukraine, Italy and Russia. We overtook Ukraine within the last 200m to place first so we went straight through to the A final which was on Saturday (June 18)."
By progressing directly through the heat, South Africa spared themselves some extra pain.
"It meant we didn’t have to row the repechage (a practice competition), which was fantastic because the weather was dismal on Friday (June 17), the water was full of waves and it was very windy."
Onto the final and the South Africans were in the mix right away. Galeone added, "We kept with the pack from the start and then pulled through Ukraine and Germany in the last 400m or so to place second.
"Overall the racing was exhilarating for me, I loved both races and I feel like I personally learnt some new things in terms of how to race."