Stroke of good for­tune sets up top SA team for Hen­ley

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - OCKERT DE VIL­LIERS

BOAST­ING two Olympic medal­lists in one boat, the South African row­ing team will get down to busi­ness over the next two weeks start­ing with the Hen­ley Royal Re­gatta this week­end.

The fa­mous Hen­ley Re­gatta on the River Thames will be Lon­don 2012 gold medal­list John Smith’s first out­ing as a heavy­weight as he shares the men’s four boat with Rio Olympics sil­ver medal­list Lawrence Brit­tain.

The Tuk­sS­port/HPC row­ers will be joined by the two re­main­ing mem­bers of the Rio Olympics men’s four crew, David Hunt and Jake Green at Hen­ley and next week’s third leg of the World Cup in Lucerne.

Smith ex­plains find­ing a place in the men’s four boat was the re­sult of a stroke of “bad” luck which ul­ti­mately worked in their favour.

“It is re­ally cool to be back in the boat, I was never go­ing on the tour then one of the guys got in­jured and I was just tak­ing his place for two days,” Smith said.

“Jake (Green) and I man­aged to beat Noddy (David Hunt) and Lawrence in some pieces, then the coach (Roger Bar­row) re­alised we could make a four-man boat be­cause we had two fast pairs.”

Demon­strat­ing the in­cred­i­ble abil­ity to adapt, Smith has been on a mis­sion to tran­si­tion from a light­weight to a heavy­weight rower since the Rio Olympics.

The move has come with its fair share of com­pli­ca­tions as the change in diet and gym re­sulted in some health is­sues but the leg­endary rower has man­aged to bulk up.

Hav­ing won the 2012 Olympic gold medal with the light­weight cox­less four and the 2014 world light­weight dou­ble sculls ti­tle with James Thomp­son, he is look­ing for suc­cess with a new crew in a new weight cat­e­gory.

“Ini­tially Roger just wanted me to train and get ready for the world champs but I man­aged to prove my­self in that pair to be re­ally fast,” Smith said.

“This is my fourth Hen­ley; we’ve never won, we’ve made it to fi­nals day twice but we’ve never won it and we re­ally want to win it.”

Brit­tain, who won the men’s pair sil­ver medal with Shaun Keel­ing at last year’s Rio Olympics Games, said the crew has shown some po­ten­tial.

“It is go­ing to be quite ex­cit­ing, it is go­ing to be a bit of an in­ter­est­ing one be­cause it will be our first race to­gether at the Hen­ley Re­gatta but we are look­ing for­ward to it,” Brit­tain said. “We have re­ally ex­cit­ing speed and train­ing has been go­ing re­ally well, we don’t re­ally know where we sit so this next week is go­ing to be about find­ing out where we sit among the big dogs.

“It is go­ing to be pretty in­tense but we are re­ally look­ing for­ward to it.”

Rio Olympian Kirsten McCann will be the only other South African rac­ing at Hen­ley, in the women’s sin­gle sculls boat.

McCann raced to a world light­weight dou­ble sculls bronze medal with former crew mem­ber Ur­sula Grob­ler in 2015.

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