#TuksRowing: South African rower's quest to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics is on track

Posted on May 20, 2023

It said that in rowing, you always strive for that perfect stroke, that repetition, each being as good as the last. It is precisely why Paige Badenhorst fell in love with the sport. 

"Rowing is such a complex sport. There is never a moment you can ever claim to be the complete rower. The quest is always to see what can be done to get the boat faster in the water. But in the end, rowing is a gratifying sport. That is why we do what we do. Train six days a week, sometimes for up to four hours. To me, rowing will never only be about results. It is also about one's journey," explains the Tuks-based rower who hopes to represent South Africa at next year's 2024 Paris Olympic Games. 

Judging by the Rowing World Cup results in Zagreb, Croatia, there is a real chance that Badenhorst will be an Olympian next year. She and Katherine Williams won a bronze medal in the women's double sculls race. It is the first time the two Tuks rowers teamed up to compete internationally.

Rowing undoubtedly has opened the world to Badenhorst. After matriculating, she got a bursary to row and study at the University of Michigan. She went on to do her Masters at Cambridge University. 

From a rowing perspective, Badenhorst's most memorable moment was last year's Boat Race. She was part of the Cambridge team who beat Oxford and set a new course record (18:22). It was the 76th time the two women's crews faced off on the River Thames. They race on a tidal stretch (6.8km) known as the Tideway in southwest London. By winning, Cambridge upped their winning tally to 46. 

"It is a race I will never forget. The Boat Race is one of the toughest, not only because of the distance. On the water, things tend to be unpredictable. Anything can happen anytime, so nothing can be taken for granted until you cross the finish line."

South Africa men's fours - Henry Torr, James Mitchell, Christopher Baxter, and Jake Green – won silver at the World Cup in Croatia. 

"The rowers who compete are all from Tuks. I think that is pretty cool," said Tiago Loureiro (RMB National Squad Head Coach). 

He added that winning silver and bronze at the World Cup proved that long hard hours are starting to pay dividends. 

"We are fully aware that the world's best rowers did not compete in Croatia, but our results gave us good benchmarks to work from to qualify for the Paris Olympic Games. The ultimate aim would be to try and qualify a men's fours and pairs crew, but as we face a 'time crush,' we might have to settle for qualifying only one boat. 

"To be honest, we lack depth. Jake Green, at 28, is our most experienced rower, but from an international rowing perspective, he is still a youngster. Nothing decides who will row in the fours boat or the pairs. What is a given is that we need to find more speed in both boats. We are training 'bloody' hard at the moment."

"I was surprised by Paige and Katherine's performance. We expected them to be medal contenders later. But they proved to be up to the challenge. Their result is a real confidence booster."

- Author Wilhelm De Swardt

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