South Africa has a realistic chance of clinching two medals at the Rowing World Championships in Sarasota in the United States, starting today.
Within just 12 months of the Rio Olympics, such a feat will impressive for the local team, who are in the process of building a new base.
Women’s single sculls rower Kirsten McCann has a good chance of bagging gold while the men’s four are also looking for a podium finish.
The men’s four boasts a host of talent with Olympic and World Championships gold medallist John Smith and Olympic silver medallist Lawrence Brittain occupying the middle two seats.
Jake Green and David Hunt, who was part of the crew that just missed out on bronze at last year’s Olympics, are in the front and back.
The quartet finished fourth in Lucerne, where they missed out on bronze by 0.05 seconds.
Great Britain will be the team to beat after winning the last five Olympic titles.
“It took a lot of long, hard hours, but I think during the Lucerne World Cup we started to gel,” Brittain said.
“I believe we are now one crew with one goal.
“The World Championships is going to be a humdinger.
“Italy, Netherlands and Spain are the other teams who are definite medal contenders, but I rate our crew also. Since Lucerne, we have managed to get the boat a lot faster.”
The swan of SA rowing, McCann, was the first SA woman to win a medal at the Under-23 World Championships when she finished third in the lightweight single sculls in 2010.
She and Ursula Grobler became the first SA women to win a medal at the world championships with bronze in 2015 in the world lightweight double sculls.
“My goal this year is to be as fast as humanly possible in the single scull and that to me is to be faster than I’ve ever been,” McCann said.
“It is very cool to win but my personal goal is just to be the best athlete. I would love to be one of the best lightweight women in the world where people respect you.”
The newbies in the team have been set the target of finish in among the top 11 teams. Eleven is not merely one short of a dozen but represents the qualifying mark for the Olympics.
In an attempt to fast-track some of the youngsters to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, national coach Roger Barrow is looking to blood more inexperienced rowers than in previous years.
The rest of the team will consist of a men’s lightweight double sculls crew of Vaughn Botes and Nicholas Oberholzer, and a men’s pair boat of Sandro Torrente and Leo Davis.
The talented Kyle Schoonbee, who won silver in the men’s single sculls at the world championships, will be making his senior debut. He finished fourth in the men’s double sculls boat with Bradley Betts in 2016.