Sunday Times

Ducks in a row ‘Feisty’ Kirsten and Nicole both in top form for Games qualifier

- By DAVID ISAACSON

● SA’s Olympic rowing hopefuls last night jetted off to picturesqu­e Lucerne in Switzerlan­d where, against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks, they will compete in a fiery cauldron to qualify for the Tokyo Games.

Nearly five years of hard work will boil down to three days of intense racing from Saturday, and the Olympic dreams of most entrants are doomed to perish.

Kirsten McCann and Nicole van Wyk go up against 15 crews battling for three berths in the lightweigh­t women’s double sculls, while the men’s strong four face off against 12 other nations fighting for two spots.

Coach Roger Barrow is more worried about the risk of contractin­g Covid-19 while travelling there.

“I’m feeling pretty anxious and nervous, more about all the Covid stuff than the rowing,” he said. “If someone gets Covid, it’s all over. I think the rowing’s going pretty well.”

The plan is to wear masks and face shields the whole time, and they won’t eat in airports or on the plane.

“When we get there we’ll hire our own vehicle, we’re not going to take any public transport. We’re training out of a club for the first three days to be more isolated before we move to where the regatta venue is.”

McCann and Van Wyk have both come back well after struggling with back injuries in the past months. “We’re both currently as strong as we’ve ever been,” said Van Wyk.

“What this has taught us is to train a lot smarter,” added veteran McCann, who finished fifth at the last Games with Ursula Grobler. “It’s about the quality of the training we’re getting done and … hence we’re in the best form either of us has ever been.”

Their sole focus has been Lucerne. “I haven’t thought of the Games,” said Van Wyk. “Right now my life ends at the end of the qualificat­ion regatta.”

“I’m on the same page,” echoed McCann. “We’re all in. Just completing a day of training is a big thing.”

The SA squad has spent nine weeks, in two stints, at Katse Dam in Lesotho, which treated

If someone gets Covid, it’s over. The rowing’s going well Roger Barrow

SA rowing coach

them to pretty snow peaks mixed with icy conditions on the water, which they’re likely to experience in Switzerlan­d.

But the time away from home has been tough. “I think mentally it’s really hard to be away from friends and family for that long, but physically it’s done us the world of good because we’re so strong at the moment,” said Van Wyk.

McCann said the friendship they had forged had helped during the camp. “We’re really able to switch from training to downtime and enjoying each other’s company.”

Barrow has faith in the duo. “They’re getting better and better.

“They’re quite feisty women — they love to race, both of them, so the closer we get to racing day they’re feeling more confident about what they can do.”

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Kirsten McCann, left, is looking to qualify for her third Olympics while Nicole van Wyk is aiming for her first.
Olympic hopefuls Kirsten McCann, left, is looking to qualify for her third Olympics while Nicole van Wyk is aiming for her first.
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