By Leonard Solms
Despite being a small town when compared to the likes of Pretoria and Johannesburg, Grahamstown continues to flourish on the rowing scene. Most recently, five local men have qualified to represent South Africa at August's World U23 Rowing Championships in Rotterdam and September's World University Championships in Poland respectively.
Grahamstown-born Rhodes rower Bradley Betts - who won gold in the men's double scull with UCT's Kyle Schoonbee at this year's national championships (30 April-1 May) - unsurprisingly qualified together with his partner for that race at the national selection regatta (14-15 May).
He therefore became the first Rhodes student to qualify for the U23 World Championships since 2007.
Betts, who represented South Africa in the men's coxless four at last year's Universiade Gwangju, stated: "[Being selected] feels good. I have known for a while [that I would], but it's finally sunk in with the official letter now. I'm very excited."
Meanwhile, Rhodes coach and St. Andrew's Director of Rowing Chris Holliday, who coached South Africa in Gwangju last year, has once again been selected to travel in that capacity - this time with the national U23 team.
Holliday heaped the praise on his local rowers for helping him get where he is, stating: "To represent South Africa has always been a dream of mine. To do so with these athletes developed in Grahamstown shows the dedication and hard work of the athletes has paid off.
"Now, the focus must turn to the World Championships and trying to achieve that gold for South Africa."
Thomas Lungu, the Rhodes University Rowing Club's men's captain, stated: "It's so inspiring to see both of them get selected - a true testament of what hard work yields."
"Brad set a goal and achieved it. He deserves all credit for this. And then Chris - brilliant coach! He's realistic in his decisions and knows his rowing."
"I think to have both of them achieve national status for a second year running with Rhodes shows how determined they are. From my side, I'm absolutely amazed."
Meanwhile, Lungu's predecessor as captain, Nicholas Greeff, has been selected in South Africa's men's four for the World University Championships. He will be joined by fellow Rhodes rower Murray Bales-Smith, who qualified for the Lightweight Men's Four.
A Rhodes rowing stalwart, Greeff is no stranger to the international rowing scene, having joined Betts and Holliday in Gwangju last year.
Bales-Smith, who arrived this year from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, has wasted no time in making a splash - winning gold at the national championships for the men's quad scull along with Betts; Greeff; and first year Oscar Hobson - a St. Andrew's old boy.
Whatever happens in the Netherlands and in Poland, the strides made by Grahamstown rowing over the last two years have ensured that it will be the one clear winner.
Maike Diekmann, also a Rhodent will be representing the Namibian team in the U23 World Championships in Europe. There are also two Old Rhodian representing Zimbabwe in this year’s Olympic Games, Andrew Peebles and Micheen Thornycroft will both respectively compete in Heavyweight Scull.
Source: Grocott's Mail
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