Rowers look ahead to Rio

2012-08-04 00:00

SOUTH Africa’s heroic rowers gave it everything but the kitchen sink in the brutal execution of their plan to win the gold medal in the lightweight coxless four.

The plan had been years in the hatching, but culminated last night in what John “Bean” Smith termed a “civil” celebration with a few drinks in the Eton Dorney village pub with South African supporters.

Smith, Matthew Brittain, James Thompson and Lawrence Sizwe Ndlovu were the toast of South Africa last night, having come through from fourth to eclipse the bow of the Danish and British crews to snatch Gold by 0,25 seconds.

“It was brutal — they were committed and it was clinical,” said Paul Jackson, who coached the 1996 crew to ninth, the 2004 crew to fifth and secured the top spot on Thursday.

Johannesburg-born Ndlovu, who spent his early school years in KZN before returning up-country, said: “At first I had no idea where we were until I looked left and saw we won. I was ecstatic — thrilled!”

The other crew members accredited their win to Ndlovu, who at 31 is affectionately called “Grandpa”.

The stroke, whose father comes from Newcastle and mother from Volkrust, looks forward to taking the Olympic Gold down to the distant family in Madadeni.

“I heard from my sister and friends in Johannesburg yesterday. It was only then that it started to sink in, but even last night I couldn’t sleep. I got to bed at two but we were all back up at three.”

The crew have been together for the last two years and attribute much of their success to the consistent Opex funding through Sascoc.

“This is a young crew and they’re going to stick it for Rio, but we also have very good lightweights coming through,” said Jackson. “There’s room for improvement: we will grow in terms of stamina and technicality. These guys have trained twice a day, three times a week, for years and years. This is a beginning.”

Ndlovu was introduced to rowing by the headmaster of his Johannesburg school and has worked his way through the ranks, but missed world championships last year while recovering from a wrist injury.

“I had to fight my way back into the boat. It wasn’t easy — it’s all about teamwork — without them I am no one and without me they are nowhere — and now this is what it’s brought us,” said Ndlovu, who proudly displays his medal and will re-commence his sports science studies at Tukkies now the Olympics is over. “I’m 31 now, I’ll be 34 by Rio, but I’ll still be good. The Danish stroke we raced was 41 and I’m hoping I can outdo that record.”

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