There will be a lot at stake from tomorrow when South Africa’s top rowers are competing at the Regata Internazionale Memorial Paolo d'Aloja in Italy.
South Africa’s rowers have earned a reputation as diehard competitors when they get to compete internationally regularly beating some of the best crews in the world. Last year they managed to win medals at all three World Championships (senior, under-23 and junior).
The architect of South Africa’s rowing success is undoubtedly the national coach, Roger Barrow (Tuks/HPC). He and his team don’t believe in half measures ever. That means they are on a constant quest to find ways to get the different crews to be that little bit faster.
Barrow is a hard taskmaster. As a coach, he gives a 100% each day, but he also expects a 100% commitment from every rower. That is why the weekend’s racing is important. A good performance by any rower can be a way to ensure that they will be in contention for one of the crews that will try and qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo next year.
Barrow is thinking about doing the things a bit differently. One idea he is playing around with is not to team up his boats to early on and instead play around a bit testing various crew combinations.
“During the last Olympic cycle we might have partnered certain people to early. For me, it is not about making ‘boats’ now. It is about making individuals very fast.”
That is why he selected one of the biggest national teams ever to compete at an international regatta. The 15 rowers will compete in 8 different crew categories over the two days. Most of them will get to race three to four races some even in different crews.
“It is a good team. I am chuffed with the work we’ve done, and we’ve hardly had any injuries, so everyone has been training well.
“I don’t think we are going to go there and win much because the Italians are the current leaders in all boats. They won eight golds at world champs, so if we can get close to the Italians, I’ll be happy.”
It is interesting to note that Barrow has for the first time in years decided to enter an eight men crew. Whether it is just to give his rowers the opportunity to gain more international experience or whether he has an “ace up his sleeve” is not clear. Nicole van Wyk is going to be the crew’s coxswain.
What is exciting is that Kirsten McCann (Tuks), last year’s lightweight single sculls world champion will team up with Nicole van Wyk (Tuks), twice a medallist at the World Under-23 Championships in lightweight double sculls boat. It is speculated for a while now when Barrow is going decided to team them up.
At last year’s regatta, McCann and Van Wyk both won gold medals rowing on their own
Barrow has decided to change to his men’s fours crew over the two days of racing. Saturday’s crew will be Kyle Schoonbee, David Hunt, John Smith and Sandro Torrente. Sunday’s crew are Schoonbee, Hunt, Luc Daffarn and Leo Davis.
Smith and Torrente will compete in the men’s pair on Sunday.
And it seems to never stop. The third Brittain brother, Charles, is competing over the weekend. He will be pairing with James Mitchell on both days in the men’s pairs.
The Tuks rower’s eldest brother, Matthew, was part of the “Awesome Foursome” that won gold at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, while Lawrence Brittain teamed up with Shaun Keeling to win silver at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.