SA's Kirsty McCann scoops gold at rowing World Cup regatta

09 July 2017 - 11:58 By David Isaacson
Image: Gallo Images/ IStock

Trailblazer Kirsty McCann scored another first for South African women’s rowing as she scooped gold at the World Cup regatta in Lucerne at the weekend.

McCann lifted the lightweight single sculls crown by nearly three seconds over Holland’s Marieke Keijser‚ the under-23 world champion.

McCann had purposely held back in the semifinals‚ giving Keijser the win in that round‚ and the Dutch competitor was marginally in front at the 1000m halfway mark in the final.

That’s when McCann opened the throttle‚ powering into the lead by 1.4sec over the third 500 metres and then doubling that cushion over the final quarter.

Patricia Merz of Switzerland‚ the bronze medallist at the recent European championships‚ was third — nearly five seconds behind McCann. European champion Emma Fredh of Sweden was fifth.

The new-look men’s four‚ featuring 2016 Olympic pairs silver medallist Lawrence Brittain and 2012 lightweight four champion John Smith‚ compete in the A final on Sunday afternoon.

Double Olympian McCann is the first SA female to triumph in Lucerne‚ the biggest of the three World Cup regattas on the annual calendar.

McCann‚ the 2013 World Student Games champion‚ was the first SA woman to win an under-23 world championship medal‚ back in 2010‚ and the first‚ alongside Ursula Grobler‚ to make the podium at a senior world championships in the lightweight double sculls in 2015.

The 28-year-old‚ who made her Olympic debut at the Beijing Games in 2008‚ was a medal favourite in the lightweight double sculls at the Rio Games last year‚ but after a powerful start in the final she and Grobler faded to a painful fifth.

With the lightweight women’s single sculls not being an Olympic event‚ McCann will ultimately return to the double sculls before Tokyo 2020‚ potentially teaming up with Nicole van Wyk‚ who last year became the second SA woman to reach the podium at an under-23 world championships.

Van Wyk had to settle for silver behind Dutch dynamo Keijser‚ and they will face off once again when they return to the age-group showpiece in Bulgaria later this month.

For McCann and the men’s four‚ the main goal this year is the senior world championships in Sarasota-Bradenton‚ Florida‚ US‚ from September 24 to October 1