Rowing in Rio de Janeiro

South African rowing duo and UP High Performance Centre athletes John Smith and James Thompson narrowly missed out on a podium finish as they finished fourth in the lightweight double sculls final.

The duo’s time of 6:33.29 min was not enough to get a medal as they finished behind France’s Pierre Houin and Jeremie Azou, who grabbed the gold medal, Ireland’s Gary and Paul O’Donovan who finished second, and Norway’s Brun Kristoffer and Strandli Are who narrowly beat the South Africans to the bronze medal.

The duo started the race off well as they kept the pace with early leaders France and Norway, and were ahead of the Ireland duo early on. By the 1250 m mark the South Africans started to make their move to pull away from the tight grouping with France, Ireland and Norway. By the 1500 m mark France pulled ahead of the rest. The South Africans started to drop their pace and the Irish started to up theirs. At this point there was only a split second separating South Africa from Norway. Smith and Thompson were unable to keep up the pace with Houn and Azou, who were well ahead of the chasers. It was a race between Norway and South Africa for the bronze medal, with Ireland crossing the finish line soon after France.

By the end of the 2000 m race the Norwegian duo finished just under 2 s ahead of Smith and Thompson.

In other rowing news, Lawrence Brittain (UP) and Shaun Keeling won a silver medal on 11 August 2016 in the men’s coxless rowing. The pair finished with a time of 7:02.51 min, just 2.8 s behind the New Zealand team. The pair was coming fourth until the last 500lm when they managed to row into second place. Brittain said, “[We] had a quality race. Everything went as planned. We are standing on the podium right now, job done. After years and years of hard work, the whole system is working for us and we are producing results. It feels amazing.”

The medal was especially rewarding for Brittain, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system, two years ago. After months of chemotherapy Brittain was ready to resume his training in 2015 and follow his dream of competing at the Olympic Games.

Brittain continued the Olympic success of his older brother, Matt. Brittain’s brother was part of the four- man crew that won gold in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.


Image: Daily Maverick

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