Coach has high regard for SA rowers

James Thompson amd John Smith (Getty Images)
James Thompson amd John Smith (Getty Images)

Pretoria - The South African rowing squad may have qualified four boats for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, but their dynamic coach Roger Barrow has much higher regard for his rowers.

“I am really chuffed we got four but we are expected to win medals so it is not necessarily a feeling of good or bad, it is a case of we should have (won more medals),” Barrow told Sport24.

“We are just happy about it, we are not ecstatic but now it is about building on it and our main priority is to ensure the four boats that have qualified get faster.”

The great success story this year was the bronze medal the lightweight women’s double sculls crew of Kirsten McCann and Ursula Grobler won at the World Rowing Championships in France last month.

“They had a good race and it was still good for them to get onto the podium which is something they have never done before, so it was definitely a step in the right direction,” said Barrow.

“We are happy with that result, we do believe we can win it.”

The duo worked hard to earn a podium spot after the disappointment of the 2014 Championships when they finished in fourth place before winning silver in the final of the World Rowing Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland in July.

Defending lightweight men’s double sculls crew of James Thompson and John Smith missed out on a podium spot this year to finish in fourth place.

“They were bitterly disappointed about finishing fourth, they made some mistakes, and we don’t race internationally too often so when we do and make a mistake, learn and don’t do it again,” said Barrow.

London Olympians Naydene Smith and Lee-Ann Persse improved one place from last year finishing the women’s pair A-final in fifth place.

At last year's championships the team won the lightweight men's double sculls gold medal, while Shaun Keeling and Vincent Breet bagged the men's pair bronze.

The men’s pair of Keeling and David Hunt failed to qualify for an A-final this year but won the B-final to claim an Olympic qualifying spot for the boat class.

The men’s four crew of Lawrence Ndlovu, Vincent Breet, Lawrence Brittain and Jonty Smith missed out on a qualifying spot but could still make it five boats for South Africa at an Olympic qualifying regatta next year.

Barrow will take the team’s Olympic Games preparations to the next level as the rowers will have three high-altitude camps in Lesotho on the Katse Dam.

“We are making sure the guys are full time, so studies or work things will be put to the side,” said Barrow.

“We are planning on going to Rio next month for a week and the biggest reason for going is adaptation.”

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