South African rowers shine at Olympics

1 August 2012

While Chad le Clos grabbed South Africa’s second gold medal in the swimming pool at the 2012 London Olympic Games on Tuesday night, some other South Africans put in good performances on the first two days of the week.

The most impressive of those came on Tuesday afternoon from the men’s lightweight fours rowing team of Matthew Brittain, Lawrence Ndlovu, John Smith, James Thompson.

They secured a place in the A final after a strong performance over the 2 000 metres distance in very testing, rainy conditions at Eton Dorney.

Early going

Denmark, with four-time Olympic medallist and six-time world champion Eskild Ebbesen in their four, started strongly and forged an early lead, with South Africa in second place and world champions, Australia, in third. France, Italy and China filled the following three places.

Australia made a move near the halfway mark to edge ahead of South Africa, as the two teams closed the gap on the Danes.

Then, with 500 metres remaining, South Africa made a strong push, overhauling the world champions to finish less than a second behind Denmark.

Having proved to be one of the six top teams in the world, the crew from Pretoria University has a decent opportunity to add to South Africa’s medal haul on Thursday.

Final

Apart from the Danes and the Aussies, they’ll be up against hosts Great Britain, Switzerland and the Netherlands in the final.

Gideon Louw, competing in the 100 metres freestyle, qualified for the semi-finals with the second-fastest time, a career best 48.29 seconds, despite having the second-slowest starting time out of all the swimmers contesting the event.

Unfortunately, in the semis, his start was even worse than in the heats and he faced an uphill battle to make the final.

Louw showed great speed to close down some of the ground he had lost at the start, but his time of 48.44 seconds meant he missed out on the title-decider by a single place.

Proud exit

South Africa’s women’s football team, Banyana Banyana, after two defeats, exited the Games proudly after holding Japan to a goalless draw.

The Japanese, at number three in the world, were the highest ranked of the teams in South Africa’s pool, which also included world number four Sweden and world number seven Canada.

The country’s men’s and women’s hockey teams found the going tough. The men were beaten 6-0 by world number one Australia, while the women fell 4-1 to New Zealand after a disappointing performance.

Gideon van Zyl appeared to be well on top of Rustam Orujov of Azerbaijan before losing by ippon in the under-73 kilogram division of the judo competition.

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