By Mark Etheridge
Three African rowers (two of them South African) are among the five finalists for World Rowing’s 2017 Filippi Spirit Awards.
The finalists, all from universities around the globe, were narrowed down from more than 20 candidates from 12 nations, among them Olympic rowers, national rowers and even PhD students who had all demonstrated the core values of rowing.
The South Africans up for the annual awards, made by Filippi boats are Rain de Jager and Mzwandile Sotsaka while the other African rower hails from neighboring Zimbabwe in the shape of Micheen Thornycroft (and studies at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape).
The other two finalists are Serbia’s Vladimir Gluhovic and Great Britain’s Seun Olusanya.
The Filippi Spirit Award is open to university rowers worldwide and honours those who have demonstrated the core values of rowing in his/her social, academic and sporting life. It shows that the student, through these values, has enabled or inspired success in other people’s lives.
De Jager is studying occupational therapy and chemistry at Wits University in Johannesburg and as captain of the Wits University Boat Club, has inspired many to start rowing through ensuring that students could train at no cost. She has excelled in her studies, works as a coach and continues to row.
Sotsaka (pictured above) studies mathematics at the University of Johannesburg. Coming from a humble background, he worked as a rowing coach to pay his living expenses while studying. He’s training to make the South African national team while following his academic goals. He’s also the men’s captain for the University of Johannesburg rowing team and uses a high level of discipline to achieve his demanding schedule.
The 22-year-old rower/coach told Team SA: ‘ Well to be honest I was surprised that my club wanted to nominate me in the first place after having read the personal statements of my impact on some of our club members’ rowing.
‘For my part I soon realised that there’s more to rowing than pulling on some oars and to be selected as a finalist is probably one of my biggest achievements, and I’m honored to be part of the shortlist.
‘That being said, this is not just my achievement, but UJ as a whole. I hope more up-and-coming uni rowers will find some motivation in this to perhaps influence the next person to go over and above in this sport.’
Sotsaka hails from Polokwane but moved to Pretoria for high school, then to Johannesburg for university.
He’s represented SA at World Student rowing championships in 2016 and at last year’s World U23 Championships, securing top 10 spots at both.
He was also UJ men’s rower of the year in both those years and captained the university side last year.
Thornycroft is a two-time Olympic rower and is currently studying at Rhodes University where she hopes to graduate in 2019 with a masters degree in human kinetics and ergonomics.
At the Rhodes University Rowing Club, she coaches, mentors and inspires younger women. She has been involved in a number outreach projects including the RowZambezi project.
The winner’s university rowing club will receive a custom-built, top-of-the-range Filippi eight racing shell. The boat recognises the winner’s involvement in the club and helps the club to develop more young rowers in the future.
Filippi Lido S.R.L. (also known as ‘Filippi Boats’) is a rowing racing boat manufacturer based in Donoratico, Italy. Since 1980, Filippi has produced top Olympic-class rowing boats renowned for design, top-quality materials and state-of-the-art technology combined with passion and core values that underpin their work.