The RMB National Rowing Squad has done South Africa proud at this year’s U19 and U23 World Rowing Championships, which took place from 25 to 31 July in Varese, Italy.

The South African team was selected at the national selection regatta that took place in Tzaneen, Limpopo, on 6 and 7 May 2022, with provincial hopefuls from all over the country racing to represent the green and gold.

Here are the results:
Men’s heavyweight pair – 1st in 6:19,99 (new world record)
Damien Bonhage-Koen and Christopher Baxter
Coach: Thato Mokoena
Women’s heavyweight pair – 6th in 7:10,43
Katherine Williams and Courtney Westley
Coach: Thato Mokoena

Junior men’s coxed four – 4th in 6:16,60
Jayden Thomson (coxwain), Dilano Sà, Cristiano De Freitas, Braden Howard and Ethan Romburgh
Coach: Chris Paynter
Junior women’s quad – 8th in 6:39,14
Jeanne Reimann, Kerry Grundlingh, Brigette Kappler and Holly Crews
Coach: Caitlin Dace
Junior men’s pair – 12th in 6:54,07
Mark Carreira and Conor Hurst
Coach: Athenkosi Hlekani
Junior women’s double – 15th in 7:18,85
Emma Gomes and Taniel Stroud
Coach: Matthew Soll
Junior men’s single scull – 25th in 7:21,85
Sasha Mosig
Coach: Bevan Stephens

“The U23 and U19 World Rowing Championships is an important opportunity for young rowers to measure themselves against the best in the world, building the collegiate nature of rowing in South Africa and giving young rowers a direct pathway to follow their passion,” says team manager, Darryn Roff. “We are on the cusp of an exceptional generation of coaches and rowers under the guidance of newly appointed national coach, Tiago Loureiro.

“We are delighted to see the current team of managers and coaches building the next generation of Olympic hopefuls. It’s great to see that our junior national head coach, Caitlin Dace, leading the way for women’s rowing coaches in South Africa as the first woman junior head rowing coach.”

One of the tremendous stories to come out of the championship is the appointment of Athenkosi Hlekani as the U19 men’s pair coach. Hlekani was raised in a township outside Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape, home to the RMB Boat Race. His rowing talent earned him a scholarship to attend the University of Johannesburg. His career focused on schools rowing, culminating in his appointment as director of rowing at St Stithians College in Johannesburg. He subsequently attained his position of junior rowing coach for the RMB National Squad.

“It’s been a tough but enjoyable journey, with great support from Rowing South Africa and RMB supporting rowing in South Africa, including development rowing and the junior team,” says Hlakani.

“Over the years we have been privileged to see and support rowers like Caitlin and Athenkosi rising through the ranks to coach at national level,” says RMB’s chief marketing officer, Alison Badenhorst. “Unlocking talent in this way is what we stand for as a business. Seeing that adage being brought to life through these young rowers is truly what our sponsorship is all about.”

The next major event on the international rowing calendar is the Senior World Championships, which take place from 18-25 September in Racice, Czech Republic.

“We also have the local season for all our junior rowers kicking off in September,” says Roff. “The exciting thing about this year’s junior team is that we have eight first year university students in a team of 14, which is extremely promising for the next few years’ championships.”