South Africa’s rowers certainly made their presence felt on Wednesday morning at the World Rowing Championships in Auguebelette, France by qualifying four boats for Thursday semi-finals. These results means that the South African might just be able to qualify four crews for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio. South Africa’s defending world champions, James Thompson and John Smith, were in awesome form.
Not only did they win their quarter-final-heat in the lightweight double sculls. They also set the fastest time. Their winning time was 6 minutes 22.97s.
Britain’s William Fletcher and Richard Chambers won their quarter-final in 6:23.35 which was the second fastest time. America’s Andrew Campbell and Joshua Koniecznay who finished second to the South Africans clocked 6:24.38 to record the third fastest time in the quarter-finals. Thompson says: ‘I think we had a pretty good day. It was a pretty straight forward paddle in which we just made sure that we got the job done. We were surprised by our winning time. I think when we rowed our quarter-finals the weather conditions was certainly more conducive to setting a fast time.’
He is quietly confident that he Smith will be able to progress to the final: ‘We are not taking anything for granted because there are some good crews in our semi-final but luckily we only need to get a top three finish to qualify for the final.’ Thompson is as excited about his teammate’s performances. The Tuks/HPC rower says: ‘The fact that we got four South African crews in the semi-finals means there is certainly a realistic chance that all of us can qualify for the Games. As things stand at the moment we are amongst the top 12 crews at the World Championships. To qualify for the Games we need to be in the top 11 which in theory means that we just need to beat one boat in our semi-finals.’
South Africa’s Shaun Keeling and David Hunt were involved in titanic battle against France’s Germain Chardin and Dorian Mortelette in their men’s pair quarterfinal-heat. They were in the lead after 500 metres then got passed, regained the lead after 1500 metres. When the Tuks/HPC-crew realised that they were going to qualify for the semi-final they chose not to over exert themselves over the last 100 or so metres.
The French won in 6:30.94 with the South Africans finishing second in 6:33.20. Kirsten McCann and Ursula Grobler won their quarter-final-heat in the lightweight women’s double sculls in 7:14.22 to book their place in the semi-finals. Naydene Smith and Lee-Ann Persse qualified for the women’s pair semi-finals. South Africa’s Willie Morgan, Jake Green and Leo Davis are through to the final of the men’s coxed pair. This is not an Olympic event.