Johannesburg - South Africa are guaranteed three spots at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after three boats advanced to their respective A-finals at the World Rowing Championships in France on Thursday.
Four of the South African boats were involved in semi-finals, with the top three boats in each race advancing to Saturday’s A-finals, earning automatic qualification for Rio.
Defending champions James Thompson and John Smith were conservative in their lightweight men's double sculls row as they remained in third place until the end.
They came close to conceding that crucial third-place finish with the Polish crew gaining on them towards the finish but the duo held on to advance to the final.
In the lightweight women’s double sculls boat, Kirsten McCann and Ursula Grobler were in a commanding position throughout their semi before Canada’s Lindsay Jennerich and Patricia Obee sneaked through in first place.
The South African duo nevertheless got the Olympic qualification out of the way and can now focus on claiming silverware after last year’s fourth-place finish.
London Olympians Naydene Smith and Lee-Ann Persse also secured a women’s pair spot for Rio with a strong paddle in their semi-final.
The American crew of Felice Mueller and Eleanor Logan were in a race of their own leaving the rest of the field to battle it out for second and third place.
Smith and Persse held onto the second place before Canada took a narrow lead before the 1 500m mark.
The South Africans, however, came back strong over the final stretch reclaim second place and also secure an A-final berth.
Shaun Keeling and David Hunt came painstakingly close to reaching the A-final in the men's pair but finished their semi-final in fifth place. Last year Keeling won the bronze medal with Vincent Breet.
Although they would not be challenging for a medal this time around, they can still earn South Africa’s fourth Olympic qualifying spot by avoiding a last-place finish in their B-final.
Meanwhile, the LTA mixed coxed four crew of Dieter Rosslee, Shannon Murray, Lucy Perold, Dylan Trollope and Willie Morgan as coxswain claimed a Rio Paralympic qualifying spot.
They finished their semi-final on Wednesday in third place to book a place in Thursday’s final.
Sandra Khumalo will also on Thursday afternoon be looking for a Paralympic qualifying spot when she takes to the water in her AS women's single sculls B-final.
The men’s coxed pair of Leo Davis and Jake Green, with Morgan as coxswain, will be challenging for a medal in Friday’s A-final.