row2k Features
South African High School Team Rebuilding After Storm
January 26, 2019
Ed Moran,

Storm damaged shellls

The kids who row at Germiston High School are used to being in old, sometimes broken equipment. It's been that way for years for the South African school that is one of the oldest programs in the country, but one that has experienced a changing demographic.

The school, which first had an enrollment of mostly middle class families, primarily consists of students from lower income families that don't have the capability to help support the athletes. But they have managed to thrive and grow as a team despite their challenges, largely on the energy and enthusiasm of the students and coaches.

And now they are faced with an even bigger challenge, and need a hand from the larger rowing community following a January storm that devastated their equipment shed and damaged or destroyed what little they had.

As described by one club supporter, masters rower Nigel Bakker, the storm "was nothing unusual for Johannesburg and surrounds." But the winds were coming in from a direction not usually experienced this time of year, and forced an end to a rowing practice before leveling the team's boat shed and doing severe damage to their equipment.

"The wind picked up with the storm and managed to get under the roof of the shed with enough force to lift it," Bakker told row2k. "The strength of the wind was such that the roof, being attached to the walls, pulled the west facing wall of shed down on top of boats that were on racks attached to the wall.

"Once the wind got in, it lifted boats and blades and threw some of them as far as 150 meters, across a road, open field and railway line."

Boat shed and dock after the storm

The loss of equipment to "extreme damage" included five singles, three doubles, nine sets of blades, and a coaching launch. Five other boats, including some of the more race-worthy shells the club owned, were also damaged.

Head coach Lebohang Mashigo told row2k: "We struggle from time-to-time, especially with regard to getting equipment and sponsorship, but before the storm, that was actually starting to pick up slowly and we were looking forward to renovating our shed. Then we got hit by the storm."

Mashigo said he expected the response from his athletes would be to stop coming to practice. "I was afraid they would feel like, what is the point now. We don't have the boats we need anymore, so what is the point of coming to training?

"But they still do come, which is very impressive," he said. "Even while the boats are broken, some of them still come to sessions, and they still do training at school. Their attendance at practice has been great since this whole incident and they seem to be determined to come and train more."

That kind of effort and commitment deserves the help of rowing people worldwide and Germiston has set up a funding page and is seeking donations so they can continue to grow and prepare for their coming spring season, which is set to begin in a few weeks.

So far, Mashigo said, the response from Rowing South Africa and local clubs and universities "has been great, donating boats and helping with equipment when we need it," and AllMarkOne sent row2k notice of the issue with this story. But more is needed.

Anyone interested in donating to their effort can do so by going to this funding page.


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