It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Kirsten McCann has been the trailblazer in South African women’s rowing, proving that nothing is impossible once you put your mind to it.
Since 2015 she’s medalled at every World Cup and World Championships she’s competed at – winning one gold, two silver and two bronze medals. All of these performances are breakthrough achievements for women’s rowing.
A definite highlight was McCann winning the lightweight women’s single sculls World Cup race in Lucerne, Switzerland earlier this season. Her winning time compares quite favourably to the winning times set at the other two World Cup-events.
The Tuks/HPC-rower also won a gold medal at an international regatta in Italy.
From Sunday McCann will compete in the lightweight single sculls at the World Rowing Championship in Sarasota, United States. The last time she competed in a single sculls boat at a world championship was in 2010 where she won a bronze medal in the under-23 event.
Given her current form, McCann ought to qualify for the A-final and as they say once in a final anything can happen.
Jackie Kiddle (USA) set the fastest time during the World Cup Series while Patricia Merz (Switzerland) was the most consistent rower, winning one race and finishing third in the other two.
Ursula Grobler, who has partnered McCann, for four years in the lightweight double sculls boat, is confident the Tuks/HPC rower will give a good showing at the World Championships.
‘Kirsten is an absolute perfectionist that is why she’s such a good rower. She will never settle for mediocrity when she trains, or races. She’s also driven by a constant hunger to be the best.’
Having been an international rower herself, Grobler fully realises it would be foolish to make bold predictions about McCann winning a medal.
‘There are never any definites in competitive sport, but if nothing unforeseen happens, I believe Kirsten can challenge for a medal especially if she’s up there with the race leaders over the last hundred metres.’
McCann is on record as saying rowing at international regattas is a huge mental challenge. ‘To put your body on the line is a huge ask. It’s a challenge I relish.’
Kyle Schoonbee who earlier this season won a silver medal in the singles sculls at the Under-23 World Championships, has been selected to represent South Africa at the senior championships as well.
‘There certainly is a lot less pressure than there was for the U23 championship. However, I’ve still made sure that I’m not complacent that’s why I have set my standards high for my first senior championships. I’m certainly not just going to compete to say that I got the T-shirt.
‘I think that if I have an excellent regatta, the A-final could be a possibility. But realistically I see myself competing at the top end of the B-final,’ said the Tuks/HPC-rower.
The other South African crews who will compete in Florida are Vaughn Botes and Nicholas Oberholzer (lightweight double sculls); Leo Davis and Sandro Torrente (men’s pairs); Lawrence Brittain, Jake Green, David Hunt and John Smith (men’s fours) and para-rower Sandra Khumalo (women’s single sculls).
Picture of McCann courtesy of Reg Caldecott