Rowers McCann and Van Wyk win SA's sole World Cup medal

South African rower Kirsty McCann.
South African rower Kirsty McCann.
Image: Sunday Times

Kirsty McCann and Nicole van Wyk produced a powerful finale in the lightweight women’s double sculls to land South Africa’s only medal at the season’s opening World Cup regatta in Belgrade on Sunday. 

The duo were in fourth place with 500m to go when they put their foot down to snatch silver in 6min 51.30sec, edging the third-placed British crew by 0.34sec and the France boat by 0.66.

The favourite Dutch duo of Ilse Paulis, the Olympic champion in this class, and Marieke Keijser, the two-time under-23 world single sculls champion, lived up to their top billing, clocking 6:49.27 way out in front. 

But McCann and Van Wyk had the consolation of delivering the fastest time of the field over the final 500m, when it really counted.

They torpedoed the last quarter of the 2km course on Sava Lake in 1:40.28, more than a second quicker than anybody else — Holland were 1:41.69, Britain 1:41.94 and France’s 1:41.77.

This was the only of the three 2018 World Cup events South Africa was scheduled to compete in, and national coach Roger Barrow will have a tough decision to make ahead of the world championships in Bulgaria in September.

Does he return McCann to the lightweight single sculls, a non-Olympic event, to give her a chance to defend the crown she won last year? 

But her Tokyo 2020 ambition lies in the double, and given that Olympic qualification will be at next year’s world championships, he may want to treat this year’s showpiece as a dress rehearsal. 

Barrow will also have time to play around with his heavyweight men’s crews. 

The pair of Charles Brittain and James Mitchell were the only other SA crew to make an A-final in Belgrade, where they finished last. 

The four, with David Hunt, Kyle Schoonbee, John Smith and Sandro Torrente, had to settle for the B-final, ending third there for ninth overall. 

Leo Davis and Luc Daffarn, in the second men’s pair boat, were fourth in the C-final.​