Johannesburg – After narrowly missing out in 2014 the lightweight women’s doubles crew of Ursula Grobler and Kirsten McCann finally got their medal when they finished third at World Rowing Championships in France on Saturday.
The determined duo took the lead from the start which they held until the New Zealand boat of Sophie MacKenzie and Julia Edward overtook them shortly after the 1000-metre mark.
The British crew of Katherine Copeland and Charlotte Taylor moved into silver place with McCann and Grobler holding on gutsily for the bronze medal.
“We banged against each other in the single during the winter to be able to race at such a high level event. Credit to the entire field,” McCann said afterwards.
At the 2014 Championships the South African women finished in fourth place, while they proved they were making serious progress when they won silver at the final of the World Rowing Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland in July.
Defending champions James Thompson and John Smith missed out on a podium spot in the lightweight men’s double sculls finishing in fourth place.
Their race started at a blistering pace with the South Africans crossing the 500m marker in sixth before they moved up to fifth place at 1500 metres.
Their characteristic strong kick was not enough as they moved up to fourth place in 6:17.460 with the pre-race favourites French crew of Stany Delayre and Jeremie Azou taking the title in 6:13.380.
Great Britain’s William Fletcher and Richard Chambers claimed the silver while Kristoffer Brun and Are Strandli of Norway bagged the bronze.
London Olympians Naydene Smith and Lee-Ann Persse finished the women’s pair A-final in fifth place, one spot better than last year.
The British crew of Helen Glover and Heather Stanning took charge of the race leaving the rest of the field fighting for second and third place which went to New Zealand and the United States respectively.
Smith and Persse move up from sixth place to fifth before finishing with a flourish with Denmark beating them for fourth place by the narrowest of margins.
At last year's championships the team won the lightweight men's double sculls gold medal while Shuan Keeling and Vincent Breet bagged the men's pair bronze.
While the South African team did not experience the same amount of success in terms of medal tally they did manage to qualify four boats for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
With three boats rowing in A-finals on Saturday they had already claimed automatic qualification, and it was up to the men’s pair of Keeling and David Hunt to ensure they finished in the top-five in their B-final.
The duo did that in style as they took charge from the start and staved off a fierce challenge by the French crew of Germain Chardin and Dorian Mortelette.
The men’s four crew of Lawrence Ndlovu, Vincent Breet, Lawrence Brittain and Jonty Smith finished their C-final in first place for an overall 13th-place ranking.
They needed an 11th place to secure a spot for Rio but could still make it five boats for South Africa at an Olympic qualifying regatta next year.
In the lightweight women’s single sculls Kate Johnstone won her C-final in a time of 08:07.160.
Meanwhile, the LTA mixed coxed four crew of Dieter Rosslee, Shannon Murray, Lucy Perold, Dylan Trollope and Willie Morgan as coxswain and AS women’s single sculls rower Sandra Khumalo qualified for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.