Straight Running with Norrie Williamson: Hero to zero is still world class if it’s against the world’s best

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Simone Biles of Team United States watches with teammates Jordan Chiles (left) and Grace McCallum (R) from the stands during the Women's Vault Final on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo, Japan.
Simone Biles of Team United States watches with teammates Jordan Chiles (left) and Grace McCallum (R) from the stands during the Women's Vault Final on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo, Japan.

From hero to zero, that’s the Tokyo story for South Africa’s Men’s Four in rowing, and is clear indication of how fast things can change at this level of competition. The quartet and Coach Roger Barrows came into Olympics as an outside medal hope based on their performances in the last two editions.

Of course the crews have changed but given recent results, there was no reason to believe the preparation was any less detailed. However from the heats they appeared sluggish. Whether that was the effect of travel, the sapping humidity, isolation measures or lack of taper is something to be analysed, but finishing last in each encounter was perhaps the cruellest of blows.If this disappointed a South African public, be sure it will be devastating to the rowers and coach. Years of planning, dreaming, and desires lost — but this is the Olympics and we also need to put it into perspective the success of qualifying for Tokyo 2020.

We have also seen how the Blitzbok were seemingly storming towards a final sweeping everyone aside in their pool, then a momentarily (14 minute) lapse of focus takes your feet away.

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