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#EWNSPORTINGMOMENTS: SA rowers make history at 2012 Olympic Games

The first-place finish was the first ever Olympic gold in rowing for South Africa as James Thompson, Matthew Brittain, John Smith and Sizwe Ndlovu made history on 3 August at Eton Dorney.

FILE: South Africa's James Thompson, Matthew Brittain, John Smith and Sizwe Ndlovu pose on the podium after receiving the gold medal in the men's lightweight four final A of the rowing event during the London 2012 Olympic Games on 2 August, 2012. Picture:AFP

JOHANNESBURG - We know that it’s frustrating times in the sporting world and that the lack of live action has got you wondering what to do to get your sporting fix.

As part of EWN's most inspiring moments in sports history series, we look back at a historic Olympic moment for team South Africa and the men’s rowing team winning gold at the 2012 Olympic Games.

The first-place finish was the first-ever Olympic gold in rowing for South Africa as James Thompson, Matthew Brittain, John Smith and Sizwe Ndlovu made history on 3 August at Eton Dorney.

Coach Roger Barrow can still remember their performance like it happened yesterday and shared his memories of the race with EWN Sport.

“That day going in, we obviously believed we had a chance, but we didn't know what it actually was going to mean for South Africa. Watching that race, I was on the bicycle riding down the path as it was unfolding. We obviously had that mass sprint, with Lawrence Ndlovu leading that sprint in the last hundred metres to take us into first position. You see the guys react in the boat and you sort of realise that we actually had won, but it certainly took some time to sink in,” he said.

Barrow added that they didn't really understand the impact of their medal achievements until they came back home from London to a hero's welcome.

“It was more the week following that when we returned back to South Africa and the welcome we got at OR Tambo Airport, the newspapers, the press conferences and just the impact that it made. The belief that it had given to future rowers or future sports stars, that was where I was really touched and seeing, wow this can really make a big difference in South African sport,” he said.

Four years later and Barrow took a team facing financial crisis and illness to the Rio Olympics, and came home with a silver medal. In the same year, he was named World Rowing Coach of the Year.

This time, the medal came in the pair’s event with Lawrence Brittain and partner Shaun Keeling coming home in second place.

“It was a heck of an emotional Games for me. We had five really good boats that could all put out a great performance and obviously, Shaun and Lawrence coming back with something was great. I mean, it would have been a whole lot worse if we had come back with five fourth-place finishes, so it was great we walked away with a medal but from a personal side, we were definitely hoping to do a lot more,” he said.

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