As a rower Matthew Brittain needs no introduction ÔÇô┬áespecially not after last year’s Olympic Games in London where together with Sizwe Ndlovu, John Smith and James Thompson, he won the gold medal in the men’s lightweight coxless fours rowing event.
But recently dramatic changes have occurred in the sports life of Brittain, who is based at Pretoria’s High Performance Centre (HPC).
Although he’s still a passionate rower, he is also making headline news as a mountain biker. It all began with an announcement that Brittain and his rowing teammate, James Thompson, were going to compete in the Absa Cape Epic.
Last week Brittain competed in the Joburg2C mountain-bike tour and on Saturday he will compete in the Burry Stander Mountain Bike Series in memory of his former Olympic teammate.
The idea to create a Burry Stander Mountain Bike Series is the brainchild of Alan Roxton Wiggill from Community Sport and Recreation, who is an avid mountain biker himself.
One of the aims of Community Sport with this series is to aid the Burry Stander Foundation financially. Community Sport and Recreation has already donated R10 000 towards the foundation and, in addition to this amount, some of the proceeds of the series will also go towards the cause.
Roxton Wiggill urges every rider who enters to make a further donation towards the Burry Stander Foundation.
Stander, who finished fifth at the London Olympics, was tragically killed by a taxi early this year while he was on a training ride in Shelley Beach.
It will not be surprising if Brittain should win the 70km race on Saturday. Since the Epic, in which he and Thompson finished 33rd overall, Brittain has been going from strength to strength as a mountain biker.
The past weekend Rob Dormehl and Brittain finished sixth overall in the nine-day Joburg2C mountain-bike tour. It was noticeable that both Brittain and Dormehl, who is himself a former rower, just became stronger and stronger as the tour progressed.
They were third in the tour’s last stage and fourth in the eighth as well as in the seventh stage. Brittain’s performance did not go unnoticed.┬á USN will be his mountain biking sponsor for the rest of the season.
However, Brittain is quick to point out that he does not have plans to become a full-time mountain biker. ÔÇ£I only took up mountain biking because of a serious back problem. The doctors advised me to take a break from rowing for a year to give the injury the necessary time to heal.
ÔÇ£Mountain biking is apparently a good form of rehabilitation and I have to admit that I am thoroughly enjoying myself at the moment.
ÔÇ£But the moment I get the go ahead from my doctor I will be back on the water, working hard to see if I can be part of the team that will be competing in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Then I will only do mountain biking as cross training.ÔÇØ
The amazing thing about Brittain’s Epic performance was that he had only trained on his mountain bike for one week before the event.
When told that there might be many mountain bikers who would be willing to pay good money for his one-week training schedule for the Epic, Brittain just laughed. ÔÇ£You have to remember that, in the build-up to the Olympic Games, we trained extremely hard. I think that was what enabled me to finish the Epic.ÔÇØ
When asked what he enjoyed and what he did not enjoy about the Epic, Brittain replied that the first three stages, in which they had to battle their way through thick, loose, sandy sections, were not fun at all.
ÔÇ£What I enjoyed about the Epic was discovering South Africa’s beauty while riding on my mountain bike. Some of the scenery was just amazing.ÔÇØ
How did it feel to finish your first Epic? ÔÇ£I cannot say that I was really overwhelmed. Maybe this is because of my competitive attitude when it comes to sport. One of my first thoughts after I finished the Epic was that next time I have to do better.ÔÇØ
Brittain is full of praise for the way the Joburg2C was organised. ÔÇ£I thoroughly enjoyed myself and, as far as I am concerned, it is a must-do event for every mountain biker.ÔÇØ