Twenty one rowers took to the water at the recently ended 2015 South African National Rowing Championships. Excellent performances in both senior and junior categories had Zimbabwe well represented on the podium.
The event, now in its 60th year, takes place on Roodeplaat Dam, just north of Pretoria. The dam has excellent facilities for rowers, including substantial boathouses, camping grounds, jetties, and a well marked straight 2 km course – the world standard for sprint racing regattas.
The Zimbabwean crews, made up of both adult participants and younger athletes from St George’s College, Chisipite Senior School, and one rower from St John’s College, brought home a massive 41 medal haul, in what is the most elite event on the South African rowing calendar.
In the junior category the 12 rowers representing Zimbabwe brought home 20 gold medals and 8 silver. The seniors, represented by Hunyanyi Rowing club – the only senior club in the country – managed an impressive 11 gold medals, and two silvers against numerous South African clubs and universities.
Olympic rower for Zimbabwe Micheen Thornycroft didn’t just win the Senior Women’s Single Sculls event – she broke the South African National record, beating the reigning champion and record holder into second place.
Rowing is an equipment-heavy sport, and Zimbabwean rowers have always been on the back foot in this regard. This seems to mean nothing however, even in the face of the well resourced and race-experienced South African crews. In a feat of dedication and extreme physical and mental work, Zimbabwean rowing is punching well above its weight.
The SA Champs tour exemplifies this, with the juniors travelling down to South Africa two weeks early to put in some focussed training ahead of the event. Coached by Kristine Johnson, this proved to be highly beneficial.
Included in this group were the seven athletes recently picked to form part of the Zimbabwe National Junior Training Squad namely, Kyle Hinde, Paul Zwanikken, Bradley Leipe, Darragh van Aswegan, Jen Lorimer, Megan Dickens and Holly Garnet. These athletes are vying with each other for coveted seats for the national team that will go to the Rio 2015 World Junior Rowing Championships taking place on the same course as next year’s Olympic Games.
The Rowing Association of Zimbabwe wrote to Harare News to ask for thanks to be extended for support and sponsorship to School Sports Network (SSN) for sponsoring shorts and caps for the team; to Maui Jim Sunglasses for tracksuits; to Makati Sports for the junior rowers’ travel bags; and to Kennan Properties for a cash donation enabling a national training squad member to compete. Moreover, two of the Hunyani Club rowers, Andrew Lorimer and Roger Ettrick sponsored two of their teammates to enable their participation.
Zimbabwean’s rowing achievements seem to be a recurring David and Goliath saga, and nowhere will this be more so than at World Junior Champs this August, so look out for more news then.