Will we see another ‘oar­some four­some’?

Bar­row’s ded­i­cated team is full of con­fi­dence ahead of Rio

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE - OCKERT DE VIL­LIERS

QUAL­I­FY­ING five boats for the Olympic Games could al­ready be con­sid­ered a ma­jor feat but Roger Bar­row and his ded­i­cated group of row­ers will not be sat­is­fied if they do not re­turn from Rio with­out sil­ver­ware.

The light­weight cox­less fours crew of Matt Brit­tain, James Thomp­son, John Smith, and Sizwe Ndlovu’s vic­tory in Lon­don was the shot in the arm Bar­row and his man­age­ment team needed to show they were on the right track.

Ra­mon di Cle­mente and Dono­van Cech’s men’s pair bronze medal in Athens 2004 pro­vided the in­spi­ra­tion and be­lief that South Africa had the po­ten­tial to com­pete against the pow­er­houses in the sport.

South Africa’s depth and re­sources pale in com­par­i­son to the big row­ing na­tions like New Zealand and Great Bri­tain.

In­stead us­ing this as an ex­cuse, Bar­row and his man­age­ment team have used this as mo­ti­va­tion, find­ing ways to get their row­ers on par with the rest of the world.

While the “oar­some four­some” have been dis­banded, their le­gacy re­mains as years of hard work and plan­ning cul­mi­nated in the largest row­ing con­tin­gent yet go­ing to the Games.

Row­ing’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion has dou­bled since Lon­don 2012, and with that also the team’s medal prospects backed by suc­cess at ma­jor re­gat­tas over the last four years.

Three dif­fer­ent boats won medals at world cham­pi­onships since 2012 with the two re­main­ing mem­bers of the “oar­some four­some”, Thomp­son and Smith, win­ning gold in France in 2014 in the light­weight dou­ble sculls.

What made the duo’s world ti­tle vic­tory more im­pres­sive was the fact that they had only months ear­lier made the tran­si­tion from sweepoar row­ing to sculling and in a world best time to boot.

At the same re­gatta, sea­soned veteran Shaun Keel­ing and Vin­cent Breet claimed the bronze in the men’s pair boat.

Smith and Thomp­son have es­tab­lished them­selves as one of the lead­ing light­weight dou­ble crews in the world, fin­ish­ing fourth place in France last year.

They will be go­ing into the Games with a con­fi­dence- boost­ing vic­tory at the first leg of the World Row­ing Cup in Varese, Italy and their bronze from the sec­ond re­gatta in Lucerne this year.

The fol­low­ing year, the women’s dou­bles sculls crew of Kirsten McCann and Ur­sula Grob­ler were re­warded for their hard work, win­ning the bronze medal at the World Row­ing Cham­pi­onships in the Nether­lands.

Like the men’s light­weight dou­ble sculls, McCann and Grob­ler count among the top crews in their class fin­ish­ing third at Varese be­fore plac­ing sec­ond in Lucerne.

Keel­ing was the one con­stant in the men’s pair while the rest of the heavy­weights played mu­si­cal chairs for the re­main­ing seat with Lawrence Brit­tain even­tu­ally se­cur­ing his berth for the Games.

In the women’s pair boat, LeeAnn Persse formed a new com­bi­na­tion with Kate Chris­towitz with tast­ing suc­cess soon af­ter they se­cured their seats.

They rowed to vic­tory in Varese, be­fore fin­ish­ing fourth in Lucerne emerg­ing as the dark- horses of the squad.

The men’s heavy­weight four pro­vided the cherry on top as the quar­tet of David Hunt, Jonty Smith, Vince Breet and Jake Green won the Olympic qual­i­fy­ing re­gatta in Lucerne.

The young group of row­ers’ feat epit­o­mised the squad’s abil­ity to con­jure some­thing from noth­ing as the boat- class was a mere pipe dream three years ago.

All five boats will be aim­ing for a spot in the fi­nals of their re­spec­tive classes, and as the “oar­some four­some” have shown four years ago any­thing can hap­pen from there.

MEDAL DASH: Ur­sula Grob­ler and Kirsten McCann dur­ing the light­weight women’s Dou­ble Sculls Fi­nal race at the Row­ing World Cup on Lake Rot­see in Lucerne ear­lier this year.

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