Pretoria – Having given lymph node cancer a bloody nose, South African rower Lawrence Brittain is embroiled in a battle for a seat at the World Rowing Championships in France at the end of August.
“I am quite quickly getting back to where I was but I still have a month or two to get back to where I was but it is happening quicker than I initially thought,” Brittain said on Tuesday.
After five months of treatment Brittain gained 16 kilograms and since February he had made steady progress to get within four kilograms of his ideal weight.
Brittain made his comeback at the South African Championships in April and had his second competitive run in the boat at the weekend’s national selection regatta.
Last year October he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease and while he was racing at the world championships in the Netherlands in August he was unaware he had been living with the condition for close to two years.
At the championships Brittain, who is the brother of Olympic lightweight fours gold medallist Matthew, finished in a creditable fifth place with David Hunt in the coxed pair boat.
While Matthew has the distinction of being the first in the family to win an Olympic gold medal, Lawrence broke new ground for South Africa in 2010 with another member of the oarsome foursome John Smith.
The duo claimed the country’s first ever gold medal at a world championship when they won the World Under-23 title in the men’s pair in Brest, Belarus.
Brittain had to be eased back into training after beating cancer and had to keep his heart rate below 120 but recently experienced rapid improvement in his fitness.
“I am quickly getting there but I still have a month or two to get back to where I was which is happening quicker than I initially thought,” Brittain said.
A strong showing by the heavyweight rowers at the world championships signalled growing optimism over the prospect of a heavyweight men’s four crew bidding for Olympic qualification
“I really want to qualify and we have a huge chance to qualify the pair because they won the bronze at the world champs last year,” Brittain said.
“The fours is a long shot but if we all line up right and we put the work in we can do that.
“Obviously the goal is the Olympics but this year’s world championships is qualification for the Games and there are six seats open and eight of us.
“So I need to start beating the next couple of guys and I will be in the boat.”
Shaun Keeling and Vincent Breet claimed the bronze medal in the heavyweight pairs at the 2014 World Championships to lay down the marker.
However, the battle for seats in the heavyweight pairs boat-class is a fierce one resembling musical chairs as Breet, Keeling and Hunt have each had their hands on the oars since the world championships.