South Africa’s rowers proved they are again going to be a force in international rowing when they won four gold medals over the three days of the Regata Internazionale Memorial Paolo d'Aloja in Italy.
The weekend was however about more than just winning. It gave the national rowing coach, Roger Barrow (Tuks/HPC), the opportunity to test new combinations and the depth of South African rowing. Even judging by the high standards he set, he must be happy, with what happened out on the water.
Given that it is still early in the international rowing season, but it is now clear that Kirsten McCann and Nicole van Wyk (both Tuks rowers) have what it take to be serious contenders at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
In their first international outing as a lightweight women’s double sculls crew, they won the gold medal. On Sunday they teamed up again to compete against the heavier and theoretically stronger women and won a silver medal.
Something else that became apparent is that the former lightweight Olympic gold medallist, John Smith (Tuks), has at long last established himself as a top-class heavyweight rower.
On Saturday he was part of the four men crew (Kyle Schoonbee, David Hunt and Sandro Torrente) that went on to win the fours. What made it remarkable is that the South African crew managed to beat the Italians who won the silver medallists at last year’s World Championships in the heats and the final. Smith described it as an excellent performance.
The Tuks rower teamed up with Torrente on Sunday to win the men’s pairs. It was a race that must have had Barrow smiling as it ended up being an all-out South African affair with the winner being decided by mere hundredths of seconds.
Smith and Torrente won in a time of 6:34.77 with Charles Brittain and James Mitchell second in 6:34.82.
Bradley Betts and KG Sotsaka won South Africa’s fourth gold medal by being victorious in the men’s pair on Saturday.
Nikita Prinsloo won a bronze medal in the lightweight women’s single sculls.
A highlight for the men were going to get the opportunity to compete as eight men crew on Sunday. They ended up being fourth. According to Smith, it is the first time in many years that the South African competed in the event.
“We were not properly prepared. Most of us competed in other races, so we had not a lot of time recuperating. So I think our performance was respectable. In different circumstances, we might have finished third. We definitely would not have beaten the Romanians. They are a class act.”