Both of the Zimbabwean Rowers who competed at the FISA African Olympic Qualification Regatta in Tunisia last month have qualified for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Micheen Thornycroft, affectionately known as ‘Mouse’, swept aside all opposition, while Peter Percill-Gilpin, (known as PPG), came in 4th in the final to also book his place.
Racing against athletes from Togo, Morocco, Algeria, Nigeria and Egypt, Mouse was far too strong for the field and came in a very comfortable first place. The other African qualifiers were competitors from Algeria, Nigeria and Egypt. .
Mouse started the competition by winning her heat on Monday and advancing to the A/B semi-final where she had to come in the top three to qualify for the A final. Mouse once again won her race and as the fastest qualifier, she had the middle lane for the final with a great view of the other athletes rowing on either side of her as she powered her way to the front. As rowers complete their 2km long race rowing backwards, the only time the other athletes saw Mouse was when they were lining up to race.
Mouse has been going from strength to strength since moving to train in South Africa at the High Performance Centre in Pretoria under the expert guidance and coaching of the SA National Rowing Coach, Roger Barrow. Barrow coached the SA M4x crew to the Gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. Since moving to SA to train, Mouse has set Personal best times thrice at three major competitions: at the SA Senior Championships in Pretoria in April, at the World Rowing Cup III held in Lucerne, Switzerland in July and again at the World Rowing Championships held in September in France.
Peter Percill-Gilpin made the Men’s A final and also needed to come in the top four in his race to qualify. Rowing in lane one, PPG raced against the best rowers from Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Namibia. Egypt came in first, followed by Tunisia, Algeria and then Zimbabwe.
PPG had a longer and harder road to the final. He needed to win his first heat to make it straight through to the A/B semi-final but came second and so had to compete in the repechage event where he had to be in the top three to make it to the A/B semi-final. He rowed well to qualify for the semi-final but a tight race meant he came 3rd which was good enough to make the A final.
Zimbabwe can now boast two rowers who have qualified for Rio who will represent us in the sport. The Rowing Association of Zimbabwe has expressed pride in the pair of athletes for their achievements.
Image: Olympics-bound rower, Micheen Thornycroft