Medal hopes for SA rowing duo

2008-08-13 00:00

Swimmer Lyndon Ferns and rowers Ramon di Clemente and Shaun Keeling progressed through to the finals on the fifth day of the Beijing Olympics, offering some hope that Team SA can open their account on the medal table.

Athens gold medallist Lyndon Ferns gave South Africa another finalist earlier in the morning, setting a national and African record of 48:00 seconds to take third in a semi-final that saw France’s Alain Bernard scrape 0,04 seconds from Eamon Sullivan’s record. The record was returned to the New Zealander in the second semi-final, where Sullivan touched out at 47,05 seconds.

“I’m really happy. Last night I felt a little sore and stiff in the swim, but today I felt so much better and I get another shot,” said Ferns, who has come back from the disappointment of Sunday’s 4x100m relay. “It’s kind of bitter-sweet to get 48:00. Under 48:00 tomorrow would be good” said the 24-year-old.

“Today was about posting times to get into the final; tomorrow is about racing,” continued Ferns who believes the final will be slower.

“I’m happy to be in an outside lane because in the middle people may be watching each other. I would think sub-47,5 will win it and sub-47,7 might put you in bronze.”

Di Clemente and Keeling gave absolutely everything to secure their place in Saturday’s final. The duo started their 2 000m run in fifth, trailing behind New Zealand, France and the Czech crew, with Canada leading from gun to tape.

By 1 500m the South Africans had moved to fourth and upped their pace in the last quarter to claim their final place ahead of the Czech crew in six minutes 37,18 seconds. A mere 0,7 seconds separate third and fourth, with the Canadians taking line honours in 6:34,02.

“It wouldn’t be the Olympics if it wasn’t close,” said Di Clemente, who won gold in Athens with his then partner, Donovan Cech. “It was good to see Canada go off so fast as it allowed us to row our own race,” he added, referring to the Athens semi-final incident where the Canadian crew caught a crab to interfere in South Africa’s line, almost causing them to lose their final place. An appeal that went to arbitration put South Africa into the final where they won bronze.

“I think that incident weighed heavily on Ramon’s mind over the past few days as this time he has to steer the boat,” said team coach Roger Burrow.

The effort of the final 400 metres left Keeling and Di Clemente flat on their backs in the boat across the line. An exhausted Keeling was taken from the boat and packed with ice to reduce his core temperature and speed recovery.

“I was in a different world over the last 400,” said Keeling, experiencing the massive step-up in competition level.

South Africa have been drawn in the outside lane next to New Zealand for Saturday’s final with Canada, Australia, U.S. and Germany.

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