Nicole Van Wyk (Tuks Rowing ) won the HPC High Performer of the day award on the Roodeplaat Dam at the John Waugh Rock the Boat Regatta on Saturday. Van Wyk is considered to be the next real deal in South African rowing. She has already represented South Africa at the World Junior Championships, the World Student Championships and the World Student Games.
According to the formula which is based on working out a percentage that compares the winning time of each crew to the world record of their respective age group or category, Van Wyk’s time of 8:10:90 in the lightweight women’s single sculls was considered to be the best. Van Wyk’s time equated to a percentage of 96.34%.
Shaun Keeling and Lawrence Brittain (Tuks/HPC) made sure that they were the best men’s crew with their time of 6:44:19 (95.14%) which was also the second best performance on the day. Last year’s bronze medallists at the World Championships, Kirsten McCann and Ursula Grobler (Tuks/HPC), set the third best overall performance of the day with a time of 7:16:00 (95.18%).
What made their result even more special is the fact that Grobler celebrated her 36th birthday on Saturday. She proved that, in spite of sometimes being called ‘tannie’ by younger rowers, getting older is no handicap. When asked about her goal for 2016 the 20-year-old Van Wyk immediately said she wanted to medal at the World Under-23 Championships: ‘I need to improve by about five seconds to have a realistic chance of medalling. As far as I am concerned it is definitely doable.’
At school it was a case of ‘name the sport’ and there was a good chance that Van Wyk would excel in it, but rowing has always been her favourite. Van Wyk says: ‘What I like about rowing is that it gives me an opportunity to test myself to the limit and that is exciting. It is also a privilege to train with rowers who have already qualified for the Olympic Games. You won’t easily find more dedicated athletes than the Olympic rowers and they are not shy to share their experience with youngsters.’ Lawrence Brittain’s performance was the feel-good story of the day.
At last year’s regatta he was a mere spectator due to the fact that he was suffering from Hodgkin’s disease, also known as cancer of the lymph node. There were no guarantees that he would ever be able to row competitively again, but people close to him knew that he was no quitter and he proved them right. He has already represented South Africa at last year’s World Championships and is in strong contention to be in the men’s pair boat that will compete at the Olympic Games in Rio.
Keeling says what he most like about the regatta is that school kids get the opportunity to race against the elite rowers: ‘When I was at school I would have loved to have such an opportunity because of the racing format the younger rowers have a realistic chance of beating Olympians and that comes with big bragging rights.’ The John Waugh Rock the Boat Regatta is a concept that was brought to life by James Thompson and Matthew Brittain, two of HPC’s Olympic gold medal winners at the 2012 Olympic Games.
The two Olympians are quite excited about how popular the regatta turned out to be. When it was started four years ago we had about 300 rowers competing. Saturday there were nearly 1000 rowers on the water, testing each other to the limit.
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott