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Sunday, 04 October 2009 10:39

SACS Take Gold At Rowing Champs

 

Mention rowing to most of us and it will evoke images of a very traditional nature. Most will often associate rowing with the University Boat Race between Cambridge and Oxford which has contributed greatly to the popularity of the sport.

Oddly enough though in a country renowned for water-borne activities, we as South Africans for the most part have not taken on competitive rowing as a feasible activity during Summer months favoring sports such as cricket and Water Polo. While rowing it seemed remained the domain of a select few schools, it has quietly plodded along and has a proud history not many know of. What strikes as even more peculiar is the fact that in the history of SA School Rowing Championships, the Western Cape participation in the tournament has always returned with a decidedly bare trophy cabinet. That is until the boys from the South African College School, better known as SACS, rewrote the history books at this year's SA Schools Rowing Champs, which took place in Roodeplaat in Pretoria, becoming the first Western Cape school to win the feature 1st VIII race. We took a closer look at their achievement as well as picking the brain of the man behind the extraordinary success, rowing Coach Brendan Gliddon.

History of Rowing in South Africa:

 

The Alfred Rowing Club, one of the first rowing clubs in South Africa, made its first appearance in 1865 as a competitor for championship honours. Though unsuccessful, the young club gave promise of better results in the future; and so well did it fulfill this promise that today it stands easily first of all existing local sporting bodies in its proportion of successes to the total number of events for which it entered. In championships alone it won 23 out of a grand total of 44 (of which four were rowed before the club was formed), its nearest rivals being the Civil Service Rowing Club with 9 victories. The Alfred Rowing Club is still in existence at Zeekoeivlei near Muizenburg in the Cape and is not only the oldest rowing club in the country but is, indeed, the oldest surviving sporting club.

In the early part of the century, provincial rowing associations were formed. In 1934 the provincial associations united to form the South African Amateur Rowing Association (SARU). SARU was formed in response to the selection requirements for the Olympic Games. The first South African Olympic oarsman was Henry De Kock who rowed at the 1928 Olympic Games. SARU has a proud record of achievements in the sport. Currently it is a member of the International Rowing Federation (FISA) and NOCSA.

The Champs

 

The 2009 Schools' Rowing Championships was once again the premier showcase event of SA rowing. With 199 events over 3 days, perfect weather, over 900 entries from 31 schools and 9 clubs it also one of the most prestigious in South African rowing.

"It is the big one. This was definitely one of our prime objectives this season. We have had such a great season with good results at the Buffalo and Selborne regattas and we really wanted to do well at nationals," says Head Coach Brendan Gliddon.

Notable results for SACS over the 3 day event included Ryan Delaney gaining 5th place in the A final of the U15 Sculls and the U16 pair, stroked by Mathew Whitehead, just missing out on a medal coming 4th in their A final. The first medal however came when Chris Bobbert, the club captain, and Leo Davies cruised to victory in the open Pairs, the club's first gold medal at this event.

The stage was now set for the last race, of the last day of this three day regatta, that of the Open Boys' 1st VIII race. SACS had easily progressed to the final coming second in their heat and expectations within the club were high. As the crews lined up for the start, a crack of thunder was heard in the distance and the race was started. Several thousand people lined the dam watching the crews come thundering down the course and SACS were seen to be out in front by half a length. Over the last 500m St Andrews started to pull back on the SACS crew however they had left it too late. By quarter of a boat length the SACS crew crossed the line and won their second gold of the regatta. It was also, their second gold ever at this regatta. To cap off they became the first and thus far only Western Cape school to return from nationals with a gold medal in the 1st VIII race.

The Man With the Plan

Speak to chaps studying Mechanical Engineering with Brendan Gliddon at the University of Cape Town and you will probably hear how much time he spends with rowing. He basically eats, sleeps and drinks it. Not only is he head coach of the SACS rowing side but he is also President of the UCT Rowing Club, a coach at the University's Boat Club and a member of the National Students' Rowing Association. Such passion and dedication are rare these days and have translated into success for the SACS team, yet the coach remains as humble as ever.

"The chaps have trained very hard for this. At the end of the day it's all down to them. They produced the goods when they needed to and I'm really proud of them."

Let us hope that come London 2012, these promising results will translate into bigger and better things for South African rowing.

SACS 1st VIII

 

Chris Bobbert (Captain)
Mathew Shaw (Stroke)
Dean McGowan
Leo Davies
Stephen Binedell (Vice Captain)
Nick Loydell
Chris Gough
Justin Warner
Michael Moir (Cox)
Coach - Brendan Gliddon

 

 

 

 

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