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It just gets better for cancer-beating Brittain as he gets nod for top events
- Updated: June 8, 2015
Just four months after beating cancer, Lawrence Brittain will represent South Africa at the Henley Royal Regatta and the Rowing World Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland next month.
And it seems something totally unforeseen will have to happen to prevent him from representing South Africa at the World Championships (30 August to 6 September) in Aiguebelette, France.
‘It is amazing to be back and I am really looking forward to the challenge of being involved in trying to help qualify an extra boat for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio. I know it will be tough but I am ready for it,’ Brittain said.
Brittain is known among his friends as ‘The Beast’ and with good reason. He personifies the concept of never giving up. In spite of suffering from Hodgkin’s disease, also known as cancer of the lymph nodes, he still managed to finish fifth with David Hunt and Willie Morgan in the Coxed Pair final at last year’s World Championships in Amsterdam.
Brittain was also in action with Hunt last year in the semi-final of the Henley Regatta without him realising that he was seriously ill at the time.
Brittain (Tuks/hpc) ascribes his ‘comeback’ to the fact that he did not succumb to the temptation of doing too much too soon. ‘Obviously I could not wait to start participating in competitive rowing again, but I had to be realistic. It was important that I took it one day at a time. At first my only goal was to regain my strength and fitness. My patience paid off because I could feel during the past few weeks that I was getting stronger with each training session.’
Brittain is quite excited about the fours heavyweight crew of which he is part.
‘I am sitting at the back. In front of me is Jonty Smith, who is the South African record holder on the Ergo-rowing machine. In front of him is Sizwe Ndlovu, a gold medallist at the 2012 Olympic Games, and in front of him we have Vincent Breet, a bronze medallist at last year’s World Championships. So we have quite a formidable team. Now we just need to work towards getting the boat to go as fast as we can,’ said Brittain, who has won a gold and silver medal at the Under-23 World Championships.
Roger Barrow, South Africa’s national rowing coach, made it clear that he is not expecting fireworks from the heavyweight fours crew at the Henley Regatta or in Lucerne.
‘They are still a new boat and in the beginning things are never easy. Luckily the World Championships are still 12 weeks away so we have time to make the boat work and go faster.’
The other teams who will also try to qualify boats for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio are James Thompson and John Smith (lightweight men’s double sculls); Ursula Grobler and Kirsten McCann (lightweight women’s double sculls); Shaun Keeling and David Hunt (men’s pair) and Naydene Smith and Lee-Ann Persse (women’s pair).
Thompson and Smith (Tuks/hpc) are the defending world champions and Barrow admits that it will be tough for them to defend their title.
‘But it will be a mistake to write James and John off. They are as tough as nails and ruthless racers who never give up. What makes them good is the fact that they are always hungry to learn something new.’
Barrow is also quietly optimistic that Grobler and McCann might be able to win a medal at the World Championships.