South Africa’s rowers have once again proved they are again going to be a force in international rowing by winning won four gold medals over the three days of the Regatta Internazionale Memorial Paolo d’Aloja in Italy.
The regatta was about more than just winning. It gave national rowing coach, Roger Barrow (Tuks/HPC), the opportunity to test new combinations as well as the depth of South African rowing. Even judging by the high standards he set, he must be happy, with what happened out on the water.
Given that it’s still early in the international rowing season, it’s crystal clear that Kirsten McCann and Nicole van Wyk (both Tuks rowers) have what it takes to be serious medal contenders at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
In their first international outing as a lightweight women’s double sculls crew, they won the gold medal. This week they teamed up again to compete against the heavier and theoretically stronger women and won a silver medal.
Something else that became apparent is that former lightweight Olympic gold medallist, John Smith (Tuks), has at long last established himself as a top-class heavyweight rower.
On Saturday he was part of the four-man crew (Kyle Schoonbee, David Hunt, Smith and Sandro Torrente) that went on to win the fours. What made it remarkable is that the South African crew managed to beat the Italians, who previously beat them to gold at last year’s World Championships in the heats and the final. Smith described it as an excellent performance.
The Tuks rower teamed up with Torrente to win the men’s pairs. It was a race that must have had Barrow smiling as it ended up being an all-South African affair with the winner being decided by mere hundredths of seconds.
Smith and Torrente won in a time of 6:34.77 with Charles Brittain and James Mitchell second in 6:34.82.
Bradley Betts and KG Sotsaka won South Africa’s fourth gold medal by being victorious in another men’s pair.
Nikita Prinsloo won a bronze medal in the lightweight women’s single sculls.
A highlight for the men was going to get the opportunity to compete as an eight-man crew. They ended up being fourth. According to Smith, it’s the first time in many years that South Africa competed in the event.
‘We were not properly prepared. Most of us competed in other races, so we had not a lot of time recuperating.
‘So I think our performance was respectable. In different circumstances, we might have finished third. We definitely would not have beaten the Romanians. They are a class act.’
Photo: The fours gold medallists (left to right), Charles Brittain, James Mitchell, John Smith and Sandro Torrene and McCann and Van Wyk, by Blake Dyason