Practice English Speaking&Listening with: A Story of Courage

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I think there is something special about South Africa.

Being successful when youve got all odds against you, means that much more.

I love it when people say you cant do something, I love proving someone wrong.

I certainly wouldnt want to compete against people like that.

My ultimate dream.

Well is to see the kids that I have coached you know, see them excel.

One person cannot make the boat go fast, it is about having the whole team driving in one direction and just really being right on the nail all the time.

Its about coming back the next day, training harder, getting back,

racing again, fighting, putting myself out there in a vulnerable state...

and still coming out to be the best that I can be.

I believe athletes have the most courage,

because they are the ones putting their bodies on the line

and I hope they love what they do.

I have more love and passion for the sport than necessarily the courage part,

but they both go hand in hand which makes sure you dont fall off the train.

I remember grade eight, I actually had just started rowing

and this was the same year of the 2012 London Olympics.

I remember sitting upstairs in my dormitory...

and all of the sudden theres screaming downstairs from the common room and everyone is going crazy

and one of our old boys John Smith was actually racing his Olympic final.

To see that lightweight four bring the Olympic gold. Then...

it was sort of like I just remember watching the race and being like wow,

South Africa we are good at this.

Thabs I think he is a different cat, he is quite quirky and he's got his own things going.

But he is a solid guy, I think he is in it for the long run...

and I think you can trust him to put his best out on the water every day for as long as it takes.

I saw him as a junior and I thought this guy has got something. He is ginormous...

and I knew nothing about him when he came into the senior system, and I saw him race...

and he put up some really gutsy performances. I think it really showed to us what he was capable of.

He certainly got the physiological and the mental stature to do this game.

He is now in the difficult position of establishing himself as an under 23 athlete...

and then seeing how he can make this big step from under 23 being a 1920 year old into the big league.

It is really about maturity and how he grows as a person to get that racing up to a better level.

With rowing there are so many different aspects to it.

There is the physical element, there is the mental element, there is a technical element.

It wasnt just about getting as fast as possible, you also really had to think about your stroke.

It is quite a complex sport, which makes it challenging and I really like a challenge

Kirsten is tough. I would say tough is number one or ruthless the way she trains.

You like to push your body hard, feel pain, go to places that you didnt think you could.

Kirsten has travelled a long journey, I mean I first took her to Beijing in 2008.

She was one year out of school, she was one of our most successful juniors, she came fifth in the Junior World Championships

and I think she got thrown in the deep end. We didn't have a lot of depth at that stage...

and she achieved thirteenth in Beijing which is great for a girl who had just come out of school.

2016 in the Olympic year was a particularly challenging year.

We won our heat and our semi and then we raced our final...

and the bottom line was that we just werent good enough and we ended fifth.

That was really hard to accept...

and it took a lot of work mentally to get through that.

There is no doubt that when going through a rough patch or...

a really hard session where you are really tired and you gotta get through race pieces...

youve got that big goal of an Olympic medal, an Olympic gold medal.

I dont think I would be here, if I wasnt striving for an Olympic gold.

Since 2004 where Donavon Cech and Ramon di Clemente won a bronze medal...

it put us on the map.

Weve always managed from that medal to just keep jumping up...

and I think in London, certainly put us bigger on the map.

We had Sizwe Ndlovu, the first black rower to win an olympic gold in the world.

That said athlete belief is there, we can do something here.

Then Rio came along and we had five A finals.

I think once again it showed people involved in sport in South Africa that we actually can punch way above our weight.

Well honestly speaking...

the majority of our kids dont come from very good backgrounds.

But at the same time we usually dont base it around where you come from.

but it is a matter of when you are here, how do you choose to change your situation.

We dont have the best of equipment but we try to make the best with what we have.

We need to have these philosophies in a country where we dont get a lot of support.

To go into Europe and to race countries that have ten times the money we have...

and ten times the athletes we have and to dish it up and beat them, it always feels amazing.

Imagine getting on the water with your old John Waugh...

and then you are racing against somebody who is in a Filippi or a Hudson...

and then winning against them.

I mean we are always getting coached to be better, to row better, to be stronger, push harder...

but it is all done in a really positive uplifting way.

You cant come out here and train in a silver medal position. We have to train in the gold standard all the time so...

Roger is the one that keeps everyone honest and everyone on the limit...

and making sure that we are doing everything we can be doing to get there.

Roger is so committed to South African rowing and he has fought for athletes to give them support...

so that we can put ourselves on the world front.

Then it came out that Rowing Australia, they wanted him.

In terms of job opportunities it was something you couldnt say no to,

and he turned it down, because he said he wants to work with South Africa.

That just shows exactly where his priorities and his commitments and his allegiance lie...

and that is pretty epic as an athlete to see that.

I think the thing that defines Lawrence the most is his determination and willingness to succeed.

With Lawrece there is only one standard and that is a gold standard.

There is no nonsense with him, theres no excuses, theres no...

'ja but this happened or that happened'.

He just is ruthless in what is expected and hitting expectations.

In 2014 Lawrence was not at the top boat.

We started noticing that his performances were not up to scratch.

And then I was told we need to go do some tests...

and then like a week later I went from training to starting chemo.

So it was just this - your whole world completely shifts.

He was not fighting now to be in the top boat of rowing.

He was fighting for his life.

Almost every week post the whole recovery scenario from cancer...

he was getting better and better.

So I put him with a very strong partner, Shaun Keeling and they really clicked it off.

Often Shaun would say we are only rowing this distance and...

Lawrence would say we are doing more and Shaun would have to stick his oar in the water and say no more.

They would have a big fight but Lawrence's character was just more, more, more I can just churn this and eat it up.

And I think thats what really led them to Rio.

It was only 18 months from finishing the chemo to racing at the Olympics.

They were lying at fifth going through the 1000m mark.

Lawrence called to Shaun and said our water...

and the momentum changed to our side...

and almost as you watched the race unfold you can see all the hardship and times that both these athletes have gone through.

Momentum was on their bowball and you could just see their boat slowly gathering.

Rowing through Australia, rowing through Italy and getting onto the British...

and then that is where we were going to be.

When you watch it and how momentum can change in life...

and how they changed the negative where they were behind the curve...

and put momentum on their bowball and got in front of the curve.

It was just this magic story of going from the lowest point to just living the dream at the end.

So now we are a few months out from The Games, we are training up in Lesotho.

It is now when we start getting to The Olympic Games and South African athletes want to do well there.

That is where the resilience and what they have gone through, hopefully comes through.

The call comes down to Roger and the coaching team and they will sit down and discuss...

who they think is going to make the boat the fastest

and rowing you dont have contact with your opposition...

you dont have a say in how their race is going to go.

You only have a say in what your race is going to be and...

that is the same as a lot of challenges we face you know, youve got to take it on yourself.

It is out of our control.

I can only control what I am doing which is training. I mean I cant be worrying about other things.

I can just focus on what I am doing now and I can put resilience into practice.

Everyone is going to take the news a bit differently and I think if you can block it all out and stay focused on the goal...

those are the people that are going to do well at the end of the day.

I think we are in an advantaged position, we are sitting in the mountains in Lesotho

and dont have any Corona here and right now we can train so...

lets do all the training and train as best as we can and just adapt and adjust to the environment as it changes.

One theme you will find throughout all the South African crews is that...

there is this sense of whatever our circumstance, we need to rise above it.

I think courage is not letting anything limit you, it is rising above all the time.

You are doing it because you love it and because you are driven and passionate to get results and achieve goals.

So it is coming quite deep within,

which I think is what makes rowing in South Africa so special.

That you really have an unbelievably determined group of athletes.

It is like a family, the whole Rowing South Africa.

It is not just one rowing elite squad, it is the whole system that like...

if I think of all the people that just influenced me, without each of them, then I lose something along the way.

I think constantly that is what makes rowing so special.

As a coach I feel like I am also making a contribution.

Get kids off the streets and put them in boatsput bums in seats.

What we are asking these kids to do, it is hard, its tough and it hurts.

The younger generation are the future and I mean it starts by grooming one kid...

making them better, that one kid will groom the other kid.

I think that could change the country.

You have so much hidden talent in South Africa so it is really great to widen the pool...

and see more people trying rowing and get involved with rowing.

If you build the base a little bit bigger at the school age, then I definitely think we will see...

better results at the top age and be competitive in more fields.

We need hope and I am hoping that rowing with the community that we have,

we can certainly put that hope on the map...

and deliver world class performances.

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