Team South Africa made history at this year’s Rowing World Championships in South Korea.

The LTA mixed coxed four team comprised of two male rowers - Gavin Kilpatrick (Beijing Paralympic Bronze Medalist in Track Cycling), Dieter Rosslee – and female rowers Shannon Leigh Murray and Lucy Perold, as well as a coxswain Willie Morgan. The inexperienced crew lined up against World Record holders and Paralympic Champions, Great Britain, Italy, Ukraine, USA and South Korea. Everyone expected a close race for second place between Italy, Ukraine and USA. The South African crew was an unknown entity as it was their first international competition and they only had two of the remaining crew members from their 2012 qualification attempt.

In the closing sprint, Great Britain kept the pressure on to finish first and less than one second outside of the World Best Time. The Italian team took second and South Africa claimed the bronze medal.

“The LTA mixed coxed four was the only crew to win a medal at the competition, a just reward for coach, Marco Galeone, for all his hard work and believing in us, often making personal financial contributions to get the team ready to compete. The World Championships was like a movie script where every line was played out with perfect timing to create an amazing adventure,” said Gavin Kilpatrick.

Team South Africa had another reason to celebrate. Paralympic rower, Sandra Khumalo, finished sixth overall in her ASW1x final, clocking a time of 6:06.25. 
Despite not winning a medal, it was another first for the team, as Sandra was the only South African with a disability ever, to qualify for an A Final in the “adaptive” rowing category.

The program has now grown to 20 athletes across the three para rowing categories which widened the pool for selection and improved performances. Athletes are categorized according to their disabilities through a strict classification process to ensure fair competition.

The three categories include: AS (Arms and shoulders), TA (Trunk and arms),

LTA (Legs, trunk and arms) this includes the visually impaired, CP, deformities and amputations.