Sport / 19 August 2018, 3:45pm / Ockert de Villiers
The Brittain household faced a tense few weeks as brothers Lawrence and Charles were set to go head-to-head for a place at the World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, next month.
As fate would have it, Charles, who recently won the men’s pair silver medal at the World Under-23 Championships with James Mitchell, dislocated his kneecap before the start of the “trials”.
It seems almost inevitable that Olympic silver medallist Lawrence and Jake Green will be going to the world championships.
The duo have completed an impressive return to form after initially taking a sabbatical before the itch to get back into the boat got the better of them.
Charles has some legacy to live up to with elder brothers Matthew and Lawrence each boasting Olympic medals.
Matthew was a member of the South African lightweight coxless four that won gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Lawrence stepped onto the podium four years later winning silver in the men’s pair with Shaun Keeling at the Rio 2016 Games.
Some would see the legacy as somewhat of a millstone but Charles relishes the challenge to follow in the footsteps of his brothers.
“I’ve been exposed to rowing from an early age where I would go and watch them race,” Charles Brittain said.
“The pressure can have a negative influence on you but if you use their momentum then you can go far.
“It is mainly pressure I put on myself but it is also cool to see how the system works from behind the scenes.”
Matt and Lawrence have also won medals at the Under-23 Championships which is a good indication of the youngest siblings potential.
Charles was 15 when Matthew, Sizwe Ndlovu, John Smith and James Thompson won South Africa’s first ever gold medal at the Olympic Games in 2012.
Between the three brothers, they have four world under-23 medals and two Olympic medals which is not too bad for one family.
One of the fairytales of the 2016 Rio Games involved Lawrence Brittain, who had beaten cancer less than two years before the quadrennial showpiece.
Another fantastical story could unfold over the next two years with the prospect of the Brittain brothers sharing a boat at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
These warm, fuzzy feelings, however, mean nothing in hard taskmaster Roger Barrow’s universe where only the best get to earn a place in a seat.
Charles and Mitchell were set to go up against Lawrence and Green to fight it out for a place at the world championships.
The youngest Brittain sibling believes his brother and Green, who are seasoned campaigners, would possibly have been a tad better than them.
Charles dislocated his kneecap in a freak accident when his cleat got stuck on a stationary training bike.
If that was not enough pain to endure, his father David, who is a medical doctor advised him over the phone on how to push the kneecap back into place.
Mitchell and Brittain got themselves into a position for a medal lying in third place over the first half before they moved into second place over the third 500m to go on to claim their first major international medal.
“A medal was always the expectation but we always spoke about winning the gold,” Mitchell said.
Missing out on the senior world championships means Brittain and Mitchell get to savour a breakthrough year.
Next year they start from scratch with rowers vying for places in boats for the 2019 World Championships which will be the qualifying regatta for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.