South Africa’s rowers proved in no uncertain terms that they can hold their own against the world’s best by winning two medals at the World Under-23 Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
Kyle Schoonbee was brilliant with the way he fought back to win the silver medal in the men’s single sculls final.
And, with a third place in the lightweight women’s single sculls, it would seem Nicole van Wyk is making a habit of winning medals at the World Rowing Championships. Last year she won a silver medal at the same championships.
The next generation of South African rowers can feel justly proud of the way they performed. Six crews competed, and four qualified for the A-finals winning two medals.
Schoonbee was ‘Mr Consistency’ throughout the Championships, winning two of the four races he competed in and finishing second in the other two. He won his quarter and semi-final heats. His best time of 6min 50.14sec in the quarter-finals is the second-fastest in all of the men’s single sculls races.
Only Trevor Jones (Canada), who won the gold medal with a 6:49.35 in the final, clocked a faster time. Schoonbee’s time in the final was 6:52.09, with Natan Wegrzycking-Szymczyk (Poland) third in 6:55.03.
Schoonbee (Tuks/HPC) described his performance in the final as an incredible experience.
‘I stuck to the same race tactics I used in the quarter-finals and the semi-finals. A change in speed is what works for me, but the Canadian used my own medicine against me in the final by putting in real hard acceleration over the last 500 metres just as I started to think I could win gold. In any race, there is a limit to as how long I can push myself deep into the red. Overall I’m happy with my performance.”
Marieke Keijser (Netherlands) defended her title in the lightweight women’s single sculls, taking the lead from the start and never relenting to win in 7:40.19. Italy’s Clara Guerra was second in 7:42.90 with Van Wyk third in 7:44.27.
Van Wyk (Tuks/HPC) did not have the best of starts. After the first 500m, she was languishing in fifth place, but being the fighter she is, she was never going to give up.
Over the next 500m, she moved into fourth place, and still gaining speed with each stroke, moved into third over the next 500m, but she was never able to win back the crucial seconds she lost in the beginning.
Van Wyk was only the fifth fastest rower in the semi-finals and admits to being slightly rattled afterwards.
‘But luckily, once I started rowing in the final I got the better of my nerves and just focused on what I was able to control. It turned out to be quite a good race,’ said Van Wyk.
Luc Daffarn and Sandro Torrente (Tuks/HPC) finished fifth in the men’s pair final. It’s the first time they competed at the Under-23 Championships. At last year’s World, Junior Championship Torrente won bronze in the men’s pair race and the two only teamed up as crew in May.
Romania won in 6:31.79 with France second in 6:33.49 and Serbia third in 6:34.10. The South Africans were clocked at 6:43.91.
Vaughn Botes and Nicholas Oberholzer also raced to a fifth-place finish in the final when they stopped the stopwatch in the lightweight men’s double sculls-race in 6:26.20. Italy won in a time of 6:19.57 with Denmark second in 6:20.34 and Spain third in 6:20.48.
Picture of Schoonbee and Louw courtesy of Zander Erasmus