#TuksRowing: SA rowing coach Tiago Loureiro hopes to qualify four crews for the Paris 2024 Olympics

Posted on February 14, 2024

South Africa's national rowing coach, Tiago Loureiro, aims to get four crews to compete at the Paris Olympic Games. As things stand, it is two done and two to go. John Smith and Chris Baxter ensured that a South African crew would compete in the men's pair race at the Games by finishing sixth at the World Champs in Belgrade last year.

Courtney Westley of Tuks, was impressive at last year's African Olympic Qualifying Regatta in Tunisia when she finished second in the women's single sculls race. 

South Africa's rowers have set up a proud Olympic tradition. Since 2004, at least one South African crew has competed in the Games. They won bronze in 2004 in Athens, gold in 2012 in London, and silver in 2016 in Rio. Most of the rowers were Tuks. 

Hectic is the word Loureiro used when asked how preparations for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games are going.

"We have started to put in the long and hard hours beginning on January 4th. I am excited about what is happening. The rowers' dedication shows South African rowing is in good shape. Roodeplaatdam has never been this clean. Our rowing lanes are entirely free of hyacinth plants. That is thanks to the hard work done by the organisers of the World Master's Rowing Championships. 

"I hope we qualify a men's fours crew for the Olympics and a crew in the women's double sculls in May. Our first objective is to decide who will be our men's pair crew. The way things are playing out in training, it will probably be John Smith and Chris Baxter. The two of them genuinely gel in the boat.

"The likes of Henry Torr, Jake Green, Luke Daffarn, and James Mitchell, along with a few others, are all in contention to be part of the foursome."

Smith is one of the legends of South African rowing. He won gold at the World Under-23 Championships in 2010 and was part of the "Oarsome Foursome" that won gold at the 2012 London Games. In 2014, he won gold at the 2014 World Championships in Amsterdam. It was thought that the Tuks alumni had retired after the dismal performance of the South African rowers at the Tokyo Games, as he had not competed for two years. But then, in June last year, he rocked up for training. Loureiro, for one, was not surprised.

"John is a racer. I think he feels that he is left with unfinished business after the Tokyo Olympic Games. He never stopped training, but none of us expected him to find form so quickly. He was unstoppable during last year's trials for "the pair's boat."

Loureiro is confident that Paige Badenhorst and Katherine Williams (Tuks) will qualify in the women's double sculls as they keep getting stronger and faster. 

"The plan is to get them and a men's fours crew to compete at the Memorial Paolo D. Aloja International Regatta (March 22–24) in Italy.

"I want to see how their boat speeds compare to the other international crews," Loureiro said. 

- Author Wilhelm De Swardt

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