SA rowers’ Olympic dream on the line in Switzerland

By Karien Jonckheere

Days, months and years of training come down to one final push to reach the Paris Olympic Games for the SA rowing duo of Paige Badenhorst and Kat Williams.

The pair head to Switzerland next week with one final chance to book their ticket to Paris later this year.

A fourth-place finish at the Memorial Paolo D’Aloja regatta in Piediluco, Italy at the end of March would have gone a long way to boosting confidence levels for the Pretoria-based team – as has a good stint of training in recent weeks.

“The training for Paige and I has been going really well,” explained Williams. “The boat has been moving really well and we keep making really good strides to improve our boat speed. We’re in a very good place and are just excited at the opportunity to race.”

The pressure will be on at the 2024 World Rowing Final Olympic and Paralympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne where only a top-two place will be good enough to make it to the Olympics, with 11 boats already having secured their spots at last year’s World Championships.

“⁠We are obviously very confident in our ability, I think we know what it takes now and we have built a lot of confidence since the World Championships last year. The belief in ourselves is so important, especially going into an event like this,” said Williams.

“⁠It would mean a great deal to us as the Olympics has been a dream for both of us since we started rowing. Going to the Olympics would be a dream come true and would be an opportunity to show the world what we can do.”

The pair are no strangers to success on the global stage with Williams having claimed a bronze medal at the 2021 Under 23 World Championships and Badenhorst part of the 2022 Cambridge crew that won the famed Boat Race in the UK. They’ve only been rowing together in the women’s scull since January last year, but the partnership was a good one from the start.

“We always say that we are very opposite in terms of being an extrovert and an introvert, but that has allowed us to complement each other very well,” explained Williams. “From the first time we rowed together, there was a chemistry, as our coach Tiago Loureiro pointed out to us, so we work together really well and have an undeniable trust and understanding of each other that just helps us to make the boat go fast.”

The belief is certainly there that it will be fast enough for one of those top-two spots once they get to Switzerland.

Meanwhile, also gunning for qualification at the 19-21 May even in Lucerne are the men’s lightweight four of Luc Daffarn, Jake Green, James Mitchell and Henry Torr.