Lawrence Brittain trains at a windy Roodeplaat Dam in Pretoria. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/SIMPHIWE NKWALI
Lawrence Brittain trains at a windy Roodeplaat Dam in Pretoria. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/SIMPHIWE NKWALI

The last time Olympic silver medallist Lawrence Brittain raced at the Rock the Boat regatta at Roodeplaat near Pretoria‚ he was beaten by a woman.

That is the beauty of this fun format in which schoolchildren get to take on the country’s best — crews are measured against the world records in their boat classes and age groups. The 2017 edition of this all-comers race is on Saturday.

Last year Brittain and partner Shaun Keeling ended second behind under-23 single sculler Nicole van Wyk‚ with Kirsten McCann and Ursula Grobler‚ in a double boat‚ finishing third.

Brittain and Keeling went on to finish runners-up at the Rio Games while McCann and Grobler took fifth. Van Wyk won a silver medal at the under-23 world championships in Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Brittain returns on Saturday with a new partner, Kyle Schoonbee, in a new boat class. Schoonbee came fourth in the doubles at last year’s under-23 world championships.

"It’s exciting to have a change of pace‚" said Brittain‚ who will have little trouble adapting to a new partner‚ as he has rowed with Schoonbee over the past few years. He is also getting used to the new boat — in pairs he used a single oar, now he must use two blades.

This is the beginning of a new Olympic cycle‚ but Brittain is looking for early successes.

"I’m not worried about Tokyo [2020] yet‚ but I want to back up my Olympic medal with other medals this year‚" he said. His main targets are the World Cup series in Europe and the world championships in the US.

The brainchild of Olympic gold medallists James Thompson and Matthew Brittain, Rock the Boat started in 2013. There were 250 entrants in that first year and this year organisers are expecting 1,000.

TMG Digital

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