The World Rowing Championships are taking place from 18-25 September in Racice, Czech Republic. Eleven squad members from the RMB National Squad are going over with three coaches to represent South Africa in what promises to be a thrilling event.

Kirsten Macdonald will take up the oars in the lightweight women’s single scull. Kirsten is our most experienced squad member with many medals under her belt, most notably a gold medal in the lightweight single sculls at the 2017 World Rowing Championships. She has also represented South Africa twice at the Olympics. She recently won a bronze medal at the World Rowing Cup III in Lucerne.

James Mitchell and Henry Torr are our men’s coxless pair. They are our most promising combination and the ones to watch. Both James and Henry are making their debut at senior level.

The men’s coxless four is made up of Luc Daffarn, Jake Green, Christopher Baxter and Damien BonhageKoen. Luc and Jake are seasoned squad members and participated in the men’s pair at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Baxter and Bonhage-Koen recently won a gold medal in the men’s pair at the U23 World Championships – so we are very excited to see how the four of them can perform together.

Thabelo Masutha will once again be competing in the men’s single scull race. This will be Thabelo’s first senior world championship. Thabelo is also a keen musician, having released a number of local rap songs under his artist name Thabsy Baby.

We also have a lightweight men’s double scull going to the Czech Republic – Murray Bales-Smith and Lebone Mokheseng are very promising young athletes. Unfortunately for them, the Lightweight Men’s double race is very competitive, so they are in for a big challenge.

The lightweight men’s double scull and men’s single scull athletes (Bales Smith and Mokheseng, and Masutha) are attending this world championships event as members of the World Rowing development programme, which assists countries in the development of Olympic boat classes and coaches on the path to Paris 2024. Both Bales-Smith and Mokheseng will be making their debut at senior level. Mokheseng is Germiston High School’s most recent national representative and role model for all the current pupils as he follows his rowing dream while studying electrical engineering at the University of Johannesburg

We are also very excited to see Lifa Hlongwa rowing in the Para Men’s single scull race. Hlongwa has not been rowing for very long. After a rugby injury in 2017, where he dislocated and fractured his spine at the base of his neck, he started rowing. His ultimate goal is to compete in the Paralympics in Paris 2024. He will be attending the world championships with his coach, Welcome Sidyiyo. This will be Sidyiyo and Hlongwa’s first senior world championships.

Sidyiyo has a long involvement in rowing. He attended Jeppe High School on a Theo Jackson bursary and then Rhodes University. He comes from a family of five; his mother is a domestic worker and his father a facilities manager at a church. It is rowing that has taken him around the world from Boston, USA for the Head of the Charles, to Sarasota, Florida for U23 World Champs in 2018 and now to Racice, Czech Republic.

The squad will be accompanied by head coach, Tiago Loureiro, along with Andrew Grant, Welcome Sidyiyo, Dr Marcel Jooste and Gareth Bruni.

After a successful U23 World Championships earlier this year, Katherine Williams and Courtney Westley (women’s double scull) are unfortunately not able to attend this year’s championships due to injury and illness. They are currently completing their rehab and assisting with the RMB University Boat Race preparations. We hope to see them back with the squad training in the new season.

“It is extremely exciting and encouraging to see the diversity in the RMB National Squad that’s heading to World Championships this year,” says Alison Badenhorst, chief marketing officer of Rand Merchant Bank. “RMB is a passionate supporter of rowing in South Africa, from development and schools rowing right through to the national squad. We have seen tremendous progress in the sport at all levels since we got involved in 2016 and have been privileged to be able to unlock talent among a broad spectrum of rowers and management, regardless of gender, race, or experience levels.

“We are looking forward to an exciting event in Racice.