THE University of Pretoria (Tuks) reinforced their powers in the senior rowing front as they collected major trophies including the Grand Challenge title at the Buffalo Regatta in East London on Saturday afternoon.
Tuks completed a one-three finish in the senior men’s 1st four’s, but unlike last year, the lightweight crew finished ahead of the heavyweights.
Tuks finished the race in a time of 7:49 seconds with the University of Cape Town (UCT) comfortably taking silver after finishing in second place.
Olympic Gold medalist and lightweight four captain James Thompson thought their victory was a great opportunity for them to stamp their authority on the race.
“It was a great race, we are very happy with the result. Last year we lost to the heavyweight crew and this year we made it one of our goals to ensure that we won.
“The Grand Challenge is one of the biggest and historic trophy in the country; winning it was our ultimate goal following winning gold at the London Olympics
“It’s always special to come down to East London and perform well at the Buffalo Regatta; it sets the pace for the rest of the year and upcoming competitions,” said Thompson.
The crew strategically ensured victory early in the race getting out of the blocks early and moving from lane four to lane one to avoid the strong current in the middle of the river.
Thompson, John Smith with two new members (Scott Donaldson and Mike Voerman) from the 2012 Olympic Gold crew will now turn their attention to the university’s championships and the world champs later this year.
Thompson went on to commend the increasing standard of rowing at the Buffalo Regatta and in the country in general.
“The country’s standard of rowing has developed quite well in the past five to six years but what was also on display here this weekend was some of the best rowing I’ve seen at national level.
“Clubs, especially seniors, are starting to kick up a gear or two at every event; the rowing is improving gradually and the competition is getting tighter at school level as well,” he added.
Tuks went on to complete a one and two finish in the senior men’s 1st eights in the second last event of the regatta.
Old Edwardians managed to claim silver ahead of UCT and Rhodes in the final.
The Olympic women’s A coxed pair of Naidene Smith and Leanne Perse also claimed gold in their event, beating UCT by more than two lengths .
In the juniors finals St Benedicts announced their arrival in college rowing with a flawless rowing display to claim the junior men’s 1st eight’s title in a time of 7:38 seconds.
In a neck and neck finish for second place, St Andrew’s narrowly pipped King Edward High to finish second.
Formerly referred to as ‘Bennies’ in rowing circles, St Benedicts also scooped gold in the juniors men’s U16 1st eights and the men’s U16 coxed fours.
Captain Kelvin da Silva believes their row in the last 500 metres was the difference between gold and silver.
“We felt something kick in in the last 500 metres and we all pushed and went for the kill and we pulled it off.
“Last year we won the B section final and this year we made it our goal to win this final ,” concluded Da Silva.