Shaun Keeling and Lawrence Brittain on their way to silver at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games last year. Photo: Urs Flueeler/Keystone via AP
EARNING podium finishes at the Memorial Paolo d’Aloja International Regatta in Italy over the weekend, South African rowing made a promising start to its season.

World bronze medallist Kirsten McCann continues to lead the way, winning both the women’s lightweight and heavyweight single sculls A-finals.

Rising star Nicole van Wyk, who won silver at the 2016 Under-23 World Championships, finished second behind McCann in Saturday’s lightweight single sculls final before winning the same category the next day in the absence of the Rio Olympian. Rio Olympic silver medallist Lawrence Brittain and Jake Green finished third in Saturday’s men’s pair final before finishing second in the same event in a smaller field on Sunday.

Testing out a new combination, it was the first time since their runners-up finish at the Games in Brazil that Brittain was in the boat at an international regatta without Shaun Keeling, who retired at the end of 2016.

Nicholas Oberholzer and Vaughn Botes, who finished fourth at last year’s Under-23 World Championships in the men’s lightweight doubles sculls, missed out on a podium place finishing sixth in their specialist event.

The South African rowing squad recently completed a three-week high-altitude training camp in Lesotho.

This year represents a rebuilding phase for one of the country’s top performing sporting codes after the retirement of a few stalwarts.

London Olympic gold medallist James Thompson, and Keeling have both hung up their oars after last year’s global showpiece.

The season will culminate with the World Rowing Championships in Sarasota, Florida, at the end of August.

The extended season will give national rowing coach Roger Barrow an opportunity to test different combinations before the championships.

The Star