LINZ – SA Men’s heavyweight rowing pair John Smith and Lawrence Brittain have qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The team will be aiming high, South Africa rowing coach Roger Barrows said, following the results of the B-finals at the World Rowing Championships in Linz, Austria, which concluded on Sunday.
The all-important race saw the top five boats qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, with nearly 1200 athletes from 80 nations competing.
Barrows said: “South Africa’s Smith and Brittain moved away from the quickest at the start. Smith has an Olympic gold medal from the lightweight four and has successfully transitioned to the open weight class.
“The pair were SA’s only boat to book qualification for the Games in Austria, with two other crews missing out on what could be termed a disappointing campaign by SA.”
The men’s four missed qualification by four spots and the lightweight women’s double sculls by five meaning they will try again at a qualification regatta in Switzerland in May.
“The women’s pair a late inclusion after they had made the podium at the under-23 world championships were also five spots off. It’s a statistical fact that crews qualifying in May have a good chance of winning medals at the Olympics. We still believe we can do better next year,” Barrows said.
With a race that had the audience on the edge of their seats, Brittain and Smith, who in the past won gold at the Belarus U23 World Champs hosted in 2010, managed to beat other participants and qualified the Men’s Pair for Tokyo 2020.
Other Olympic qualifiers with South Africa included Serbia’s Mackovic and Vasic along with Canada, Romania, Belarus.
Rowing South Africa chair Paolo Cavalieri said: “The competition was at an all-time high standard, with very tight finishes in the top 12.
“We are pleased with the Rand Merchant Bank National Squads results under the circumstances and delighted to have qualified the men’s heavyweight pair for the Olympics.
“Hard work to come, but first a well-deserved break for the next few weeks. We have all it takes for a good Tokyo 2020.”