1. What inspired you to go to your first rowing practice; was there anything memorable about it?
It actually took me two years to finally give myself the push and try rowing at University. At the annual Sport expo where clubs recruit members and introduce them to their sports, I walked past the rowing club two years in a row, intrigued but also very intimated by this sport. From where I am from in Namibia, I didn’t grow up with a lot of water sports, which would make sense in a country which is water scarce and mostly covered in a desert as many like to joke.
It seemed to me that rowing was a sport you needed to have some background with from school at least I therefore actually joined the Hockey team for a year and the next I joined the Sailing and Kitesurfing club. I eventually realized that I really missed the competitive side of sport as I have always been into sport since school and I am naturally a competitive person. I then got the chance to row in a mixed crew full of novices for a regatta. That’s when I realized I wanted to give this sport a try. I jumped straight into it and joined a training camp early in the year, a whole month before classes actually started, didn’t know anyone but became part of the rowing family very quickly.
The first rowing boat I ever rowed in was the scull, so from day one it was always the scull and I am forever grateful for that. Even though it took me at least a month of training sessions that would almost always end with me drenched and capsizing the boat. I am normally a very impatient person but something about rowing got me hooked and I committed to it with everything, and to my surprise didn’t lose my patience when things where not going well and in rowing it take a very long time to get things right and they are never a 100% perfect there’s always something that needs work.
2. Was there a practice, race or other event when you fell in love with the sport, or when you knew you might not be too bad at rowing? When you thought you could make the national team?
When I raced as part of a novice eight in the annual South African Universities Boat Race in 2014 I felt the rush and adrenalin that I will never forget. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, our strokes were out of time and we were just rushing up and down the slide, but we were ahead of the other crew and I remember feeling so pumped and I thought to myself, ‘wow this could be a new sport and challenge I would like to try.’ It was also after that race that my coach from the early days at University took me a side and said that he really thought I have potential and build to become a good rower, that’s when I realised there could be something here.
I started training the next year and took part in all the novice categories at local regattas in South Africa, then only 7 months into this new sport I raced for the first time representing Namibia at the African Qualifying regatta for the Rio Olympics Games which took place in Tunisia. I was in the B-final and far off the top athletes that qualified, but that when I set myself a goal because I knew in that moment that I wanted to make it to the next Olympic Games for Namibia.
Then 4 four years later I won the same event and qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games. It’s been an incredible journey that I have been lucky enough to experience.
3. Best race/practice, worst race/practice?
It’s tough to choose one race as my best one, as best does not always mean that the results were the defining factor to make it one of my best races. If I had to choose one race that I am really proud of I would choose the Final at the Memorial Paolo D’ Aloja Regatta in Italy in 2019, were I won my first International medal, that race really gave me a huge confidence boost and I started to see that there was more speed to find but most important that I was able to race with the top end women and that gave me a lot of self believe.
The worst race must have been when I race for the first time in Tunisia in 2015, the lake was very windy, almost un-rowable, or at least in the eyes of a ‘novice’ that had 7 months of rowing experience. My main goal was to not to fall into the water and just finish the race, the cross wind was blowing us all over the course.
4. Best/Anything you've done in the sport no one knows about?
I guess this would have to be the rowing expedition (RowZambezi) that I did in 2018 on the Kafue River in Zambia to raise funds for conservation, clean water and promote rowing. Some will properly remember that I was part of this incredible experience, but very few will know that we rowed within very close proximity of crocodiles and big groups of hippos, the most dangerous animal in Africa. I always felt safe as we had a great team and plan in place for every possible scenario that could happen.
On one row particular I was reminded of the fact that we were in these animals habitat and not to take this lightly but with respect and awareness. As we were rowing down the river a hippo mum and her baby on the bank closest to us started getting agitated with us and stormed into the water towards us, we quickly responded as the safety team radioed us with this information and we had to get out of there towards the other bank with a short sprint/burst. My heart rate an adrenaline was though the roof and we all had a bit of a wakeup call moment that, after all, we are entering their home.
It was an incredible experience to row through part of Zambia that were so untouched and taking in all the beauty of its nature. It will forever be one of the most memorable times of my life, rowing past herds of elephants having a dip in the river and camping alongside the river in the middle of nowhere.
As an African having grown up in nature on a farm my whole life I have always appreciate the vastness and space that Africa has to give, the pureness and unique beauty it has, but on this trip I realized just again how lucky I am to call this continent my home; that we have to be better as humans to protect this planet and all of its wildlife, we are such a small part in this world yet we have such a devasting effect on it every day.
5. Any/Most important advice for young rowers?
HAVE FUN! Yes keep dreaming big and chasing after you goals everyday but don’t forget that in the end of the day the journey and process that you go through to get to those goals is far more important than the end destination. You want to look back and be able to say that you had a great time and made to most out of the opportunities, that you enjoyed the challenges that have shaped you as an athlete but importantly also as a person.
Also on tough days remind yourself why you choose this sport and what drives you to keep going, its important to have answers to the big WHY especially on days that seem darker than others. And lastly don’t forget to be present in the moment , it easy to get caught up in the daily grind and routine that you forget to appreciate the small things that light up your day and the small things that are the reason you love this sport so much.
Hometown: Otjiwarongo,Namibia (Grew up on a farm outside Otjiwarongo)
Birthplace: Otjiwarongo, Namibia
Current Residence: Pretoria, South Africa
Club Affiliation: University of Pretoria Rowing Club (TUKS)
Began Rowing: 2015
Date of Birth: 19/07/1994
High School: Otjiwarongo Secondary School (OSS)
Undergraduate Education: Bachlor of Science (Bsc), Rhodes University
Graduate Education: Geology Honours, Rhodes University
Training Location: Pretoria, South Africa
Current Coach: Grant Dodds
Number of Years on National Team: 7 years
International Results: Bronze at International Memorial Paolo D’Aloja Regatta, Piediluco, Italy (2019), 9th at World Cup III, Rotterdam (2019), Gold at FISA African Olympic and Paralympic Qualification regatta, Tunisia(2019) (Qualified for Tokyo Olympic Games), Gold at African Championships, Tunisia (2019), 1st at World Rowing Virtual Indoor Sprints (1000m), (2020), 2x Silver at International Memorial Paolo D’Aloja Regatta, Piediluco, Italy (2021), 1st at Virtual African Indoor Rowing Championships(2000m) (2021)
National Results: 2x Silver medalist at South African National Championship (2019,2021)
Personal: I am the first Namibian rower that has ever qualified for the Olympic Games, it has been a great journey and I am very excited to race in Tokyo for my country. I am hoping to help develop rowing more in Namibia as it is a very small sport still as well as promote more participation of female athletes in sports. I personally think that the future lies in Coastal Rowing for Namibia, as we have a great coastline with perfect locations for coastal rowing and it requires fewer facilities(i.e. 2000m race course), which we don’t have in Namibia and we also don’t have a predicable rainfall throughout the year to fill up those dams.
I want to have an impact on taking this sport further at home, I don’t only want to be known as the first Namibian Rower that has qualified for the Games but I want my story to inspire and encourage others to work towards their dreams and goals. My story is a special one that didn’t follow any particular path but I rather created my own way and system to get to where I am now, being part of a small federation is challenging but also brings with it its own advantages. What I am trying to say is that you don’t need a perfect plan or system to go after your goals, you just need your determination, willingness to work hard every day and a few people that believe in you and your potential to get you set up.