Bar­row’s young squad on track for Tokyo Games

The Star Late Edition - - SPORT - OCKERT VIL­LIERS

A YEAR out from the Olympic qual­i­fiers, na­tional row­ing coach Roger Bar­row is test­ing his com­bi­na­tions which he hopes would pro­duce the goods at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Bar­row’s elite squad had their first out­ing at the Me­mo­rial Paolo d’Aloja In­ter­na­tional Re­gatta in Piediluco, Italy last month where they made a promis­ing start to the sea­son.

The South African squad won eight medals in to­tal where world sin­gle sculls champion Kirsten McCann and Ni­cole van Wyk part­nered with each other for the first time at a ma­jor re­gatta.

Bar­row took a largely young group of row­ers work­ing to­wards the Games with McCann, Olympic gold medal­list John Smith and David Hunt the only real sea­soned cam­paign­ers mak­ing the trip.

But Bar­row is op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture of his young group, us­ing this year to test com­bi­na­tions and ex­pose a few young­sters to the rigours of in­ter­na­tional row­ing.

“I haven’t com­mit­ted to any­thing, it was just a good test to go and see how fast we are cur­rently,” Bar­row said.

“The boats are mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion, so we are on track, some­times the boats aren’t go­ing in the right di­rec­tion where they are a bit slow.”

The promis­ing start for the young group of heavy­weight men’s row­ers have seen Olympic sil­ver medal­ist Lawrence Brit­tain and Jake Green cut their break short to fight for seats.

“I still have Lawrence and Jake com­ing back which throws an­other curve­ball to what boat they are go­ing to start row­ing,” Bar­row said.

“And they are com­ing like a train at the mo­ment, very fast.

“He (Brit­tain) is pet­ri­fied that he can’t beat all these young guys, he ob­vi­ously has a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence and he is a beast him­self but he needs to come back.”

Bar­row was look­ing to build some depth among the heavy­weights with an eye on send­ing a com­pet­i­tive four and pair boat to this year’s World Row­ing Cham­pi­onships in Plov­div, Bul­garia in Septem­ber.

Smith, who has es­tab­lished him­self as one of South Africa’s sport­ing greats, seems to have tran­si­tioned well from a light­weight to a heavy­weight rower.

The world and Olympic champion formed a handy com­bi­na­tion with San­dro Tor­rente in Italy where they won gold, but they only had 0.05s on sec­ond-placed Charles Brit­tain and James Mitchell.

“I want to make up a good pair and a four, the team is so young, the av­er­age age of our team is just 20 and that is with a few guys that are 28,” Bar­row said.

“This is the third year out from the Olympics, next year is my cru­cial year of qual­i­fy­ing, this time I still want to see how guys are do­ing un­der pres­sure.

“If we look at 2014 be­fore the Rio Olympics I also had very lit­tle this time around, I didn’t have a heavy four by that stage, I only had the women’s pair and they were all av­er­age.”

Bar­row will be test­ing more com­bi­na­tions at the at the Belgrade World Cup in the first week­end of June.

They will also com­pete at the third World Cup in Lucerne in July while the core of the squad will be com­pet­ing at the Un­der-23 World Cham­pi­onships be­fore Bar­row de­cides on his fi­nal crews.

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