SouthAfrica.info (Johannesburg)

South Africa: Meet and Greet Olympic Rowing Heroes

South Africa's Olympic rowing gold medallists - Matthew Brittain, Lawrence Ndlovu, John Smith and James Thompson - will be on hand to greet fans and sign autographs at the Johannesburg Boat Show at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg on Saturday.

The Olympic champions will be at the show from 14:00, David Ingram of the Gauteng Rowing Association confirmed this week.

They're still re-living their golden moment on 2 August at Eton Dornay where they crossed the line first, beating Great Britain to win gold in the men's lightweight fours. The South African squad came from behind - they were fourth with 500 metres to go - to pass Australia, Denmark, and Britain to win by just 0.25 seconds.

"We knew we'd won probably about a second after we crossed the line, as the result flashed up on the giant scoreboard," said Cape Town-born James Thompson.

'Unbelievable'

"It was such an unbelievable rush of adrenalin, indescribable really. I don't think it gets any better than that."

Sizwe Ndlovu, who grew up in KwaZulu-Natal, said that a major element of the team's success was their total trust and commitment to each other.

"Every day after training, we used to chant 'gold, gold, gold', and that's what we did, we won gold. But two months before, racing against the same crews at the World Cup in Switzerland, we won silver. That's when we became quietly confident we would beat the favourites to the finish line."

That message of focus and commitment to a goal is shared by the other two members of the team, John Smith and Mathew Brittain, who will also be on hand at the Boat Show, with their gold medals, to chat with fellow watersports fans.

Interaction

"We are excited about this opportunity, because it gives us the opportunity to interact with the boating community at large. Rowing is quite a niche sport, although it is popular in schools. But a lot of the guys tend to move onto other sports when they leave school," said Thompson.

At the Olympics, one of the most excited supporters of the millions who watched at the South African team score an upset victory, was Paulo Cavalieri, Chairman of Etana Insurance, the company that has supported rowing for many years.

"At Etana, we are thrilled with this terrific victory, which has catapulted rowing into the limelight," he said.

'We owe a debt to these guys'

"We owe a debt to these guys - Sizwe Lawrence, James, John and Matthew. They have lived and trained together 24/7 for the last year and have shown us what the right mind-set can achieve."

Cavalieri is well known as an expert racing driver who competes at Kyalami in a classic 1960 Ferrari 250 SWB, but few people know he was a member of the South African Olympic rowing team that took part in the Games in Barcelona in 1992.

James Thompson said he hopes there will be many youngsters at the Johannesburg Boat Show on Saturday, to take advantage of a special autograph session with the Olympic team.

"Kids need to get involved, in fact not just kids, adults too, and take up sport because it is so positive. It's no good looking for reasons why you may not do well. Just get stuck in and enjoy it."

The Johannesburg Boat Show runs from Friday, 24 August to Sunday, 26 August. Gates open from 09:00 to 18:00. Tickets are available from Computicket and at the door. They cost R60 per adult, while children under 12 may enter for free.

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