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Coach Barrow looking beyond France… to Brazil 2016
- Updated: January 23, 2015
More is better, or is it really? This is the dilemma national coach Roger Barrow faces while preparing South Africa’s top rowers for the World Championships in France in August.
At last year’s World Championships in Amsterdam 2012 London Olympic gold medallists, James Thompson and John Smith, won gold and Shaun Keeling and Vincent Breet bronze. But the fact that South Africa managed to qualify five boats for the final was, more important.
One could expect Barrow to say that this time round he wants to win at least three medals or to qualify six boats for the finals. But that is not Barrow’s way of thinking.
‘Winning medals is great but medals come and go. Being in five finals at last year’s World Championships was very special because it proved that we are on the right track with our preparation for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
‘The World Championships in France is the Olympic qualifying event, so there will be much pressure on all the rowers who are competing. If you have only one opportunity to show what you are able to do and you mess it up, it will mean the end of your Olympic dreams.
‘The disappointment of not being able to qualify for the Olympics is huge. Many athletes get totally despondent when they fail to qualify for the Olympics because of mistakes they made under pressure.
‘I won’t even mind if we don’t win any medals at the World Championships. It will definitely not be the end of the world. The only thing that really matters to me is that we qualify at least four boats, maybe five, for the Olympic Games.
‘The boats I want to qualify for Rio are lightweight men double; lightweight women double; men’s pair and women’s pair.
‘There are people who say we should try to qualify another boat, but I am not sure about that. If we should try to qualify a fifth boat some rowers might think they don’t need to work very hard any longer because they have their own boat. The guys who are in line to go to the Olympics might also stop worrying because there will no longer be any pressure on them to push themselves to the limit.
‘I feel, therefore, that we should not be too greedy, trying to qualify too many boats, because our standard might go down.
Barrow also emphasises, as he did before London 2012, that whoever qualifies for the Olympic Games will not be guaranteed to compete in Rio.
‘I will only decide well into next year who will be going. As far as I am concerned last year’s results at the World Championships count for absolutely nothing. At the moment there are quite a few rowers who are in line to be selected, but I will only make my final decision in April.
‘The reason for this is partially because I want to give other guys a chance but, more importantly, I don’t want the guys who excelled last year to get into a comfort zone. They need to keep on pushing themselves beyond their limits.’