Lawrence Brittain is one half of the pair that will be going to Tokyo next year. Photo: Reg Caldecott
The aim was to qualify five boats for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games but the South African rowers had to settle for just one at the World Championships in Ottensheim, Austria.

The men’s pair combination of Olympic medallists John Smith and Lawrence Brittain were the only crew to earn a qualifying spot for next year’s showpiece.

The duo needed to finish among the top 11 boats at the regatta to earn qualification.

Smith, an Olympic gold medallist, and Brittain, who won silver at the 2016 Rio Games, finished third in the B-final to get the job done. The Serbian crew won the race in a time of 6min 33.910sec, with the South Africans finishing in 6:35.040 after leading over the first 500 metres.

It was a reunion of sorts for Smith and Brittain as the duo won gold at the 2010 World Under-23 Championships.

Overall the rowing squad would not be happy with their performance at the regatta and will have to regroup for the final qualifying event in Lucerne, Switzerland, in May 2020. They will now have the pressure of qualifying on their shoulders instead of preparing for the Olympics.

The team were in with a sniff going into the penultimate day of rowing with three boats in with a chance of qualifying.

The women’s lightweight double sculls crew of Kirsten McCann and Ursula Grobler had to win their B-final to qualify the boat. But the Rio 2016 combination fell well short, finishing sixth in the race.

The men’s four consisting of David Hunt, Sandro Torente, Jake Green and Kyle Schoonbee had a slightly easier task where they needed to finish among the top eight boats for a qualifying spot.

They had to finish their B-final among the top two crews to tick the box, but this also proved a bridge too far as they placed sixth.

The day before, Nicole van Wyk came close to a podium place in the lightweight women’s single sculls A-final, which is a non-Olympic event. Van Wyk was fourth in 7:53.190 with Germany’s Marie-Louise Draeger claiming the title in 7:43.980.

Boasting three medals from the last four Olympics, rowing has been a key sport for South Africa at the Games - now the pressure's on for Tokyo.

@ockertde


Sunday Independent