#TuksRowing: Courtney Westley is up to the challenge of competing in two world events in two weeks

Posted on July 18, 2023

The saying that when the going gets tough, the tough get going will undoubtedly apply to Courtney Westley in the next two weeks.

The Tuks BSc Geography and Environmental Science student will compete in two rowing world championships. She is racing at the World Under-23 Championships tomorrow in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Then, starting July 28, she will be in action at the World University Summer Games in China.

Hectic springs to mind when thinking about rushing from one continent to another to compete against the world's best. The distance from Bulgaria to Chengdu, China, is 6883km. Luckily, the time difference is only five hours.

Westley does not mind. To her, every opportunity to compete internationally is a chance to become a more competitive rower. A case of gaining experience while duelling it out with some of the world's top rowers.

"Every time I compete, it's a standout moment for me. In those few minutes of a race, I display all the hard training hours done behind the scenes that nobody else except the coaches and support staff can see."

During last year's World Under-23 Championships in Italy, Westley and Katherine Williams finished sixth in the double sculls A-final.

"The one thing I have learned from last year is not to doubt your abilities. You can't wonder whether you are good enough to compete. If you do, you start racing on the back foot.

"Regarding racing, I don't like talking about results beforehand. But you can't race and hope for the best. I have an idea of what I am capable of. During the World Championships, my biggest challenge will be to focus on what I have done during training. I will have a good race if I can execute my technique to perfection. If I do, who knows what will happen? The most important thing to me is to make South Africa proud and play my part in growing women's rowing."

Westley believes in keeping a balance in life. So when she is not studying or training, she loves to paint. She is also a dedicated classical pianist. Beethoven is one of her favourite composers.

Thato Mokoena (TuksRowing head coach) is the one whose challenge is ensuring Westley continually gets faster and stronger.
Last year's results at the World Under-23 Championships prove that Mokoena has mastered the art of getting rowers to be at their best when it matters.

He helped Damien Bonhage-Koen and Christopher Baxter set a new world record in the under-23 men's heavyweight pair event. They took gold in 6:19.99, beating the previous world record by 0.07 seconds.

"One of the critical things for me as a coach is to genuinely get to know the rowers. I want to know why they took up the sport. Only then can I start to guide them to fulfil their true potential. Actually, I wouldn't say I like taking credit. When a rower wins, it is due to their authentic effort. I am the background guy."

Craig Jordan, Ross Le Maitre, Sebastian Ringrose, and Phumele Tshabalala are the Tuks rowers who will compete at the World University Games. Christopher Mittendorf (Tuks) is an official coach.

- Author Wilhelm De Swardt

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