By Mark Etheridge
As the race to fine-tune the crew for our women’s pairs rowing berth at this year’s London Olympics gathers momentum, the backbone of the team has had an injury setback.
The boat is built around the stroke seat, occupied by Lee-Ann Persse while Hayley Arthur and Naydene Smith are battling it out for the remaining spot in the bow seat.
The team are currently on yet another training camp, this time in Bethlehem in the Free State but Persse is shore bound, and has been for about three weeks now with injury.
“I’m working through a back injury at the moment,” Persse told Road to London 2012. “I’ll hopefully be back on the water in the next week and hopefully back in the pair within two or three weeks. I’m well into my rehab now.
“We’re not exactly sure how I got the back injury but think it happened while I was rowing, probably a combination of the boat not being completely stable and not great technique ÔÇô which I’ve been working hard on since my injury. The correct technique will put less pressure on the back.”
Now 23, Persse started rowing at school, Somerset College in Somerset West in the Cape when she was 16 and hasn’t looked back since. “After school I went to Boston University in the States for two years on a scholarship but came back to SA early because I wanted to row for South Africa. I rowed with Hayley for my first international season and with Naydene for my second international season.”
Persse is not letting the injury get her too down. “Otherwise spirits are high and everything is going well. While I am spending a lot of time on the bike the rest of the team are doing the man-miles on the water and ergo! Even though my injury could have been seen as a minor setback, it gave me the opportunity to work on some of my weaknesses and flexibility which I feel will only benefit the boat in the long run!”
A vital sign of just how far the trio have come in their preparation will be when national coach Roger Barrow accompanies them to the World Cup in Serbia next month. That will give a good indication of how far they’ve come in their preparation for London.