Published: 26-Oct-2020

The RMB National Rowing Squad: A Story of Courage

Rand Merchant Bank, sponsor of the RMB National Rowing Squad, has released a stirring documentary that lays bare the courage and commitment required to be a member of South Africa’s world-class national rowing team.


Rand Merchant Bank, sponsor of the RMB National Rowing Squad, has released a stirring documentary that lays bare the courage and commitment required to be a member of South Africa’s world-class national rowing team.

The documentary, titled A Story of Courage, gives viewers a glimpse into the minds of the people who underscore the success of the team, unpacking the philosophy of winning, and revealing what happens behind the scenes when the team is in training for major events such as the Olympic Games.

“There’s something special about South Africa,” says head coach Roger Barrow in the opening sequence of the film. “Being successful when you have all odds against you means that much more.”

The RMB National Squad has achieved great things in the past few years – far more than it technically should have on paper.

“Rowing is not a sport that receives a lot of national investment, yet the squad never disappoints on the world stage,” says Barrow. “We are often viewed as the underdogs, going into meets with the odds stacked against us.

“The numbers suggest we shouldn’t be doing as well as we are. But through sheer force of will, the squad has risen above many challenges to claim podium finishes in some of the world’s top rowing events – including at the Athens, London and Rio Olympics.”

A Story of Courage was filmed on location at various training venues in Gauteng, including Roodeplaat Dam and Victoria Lake, as well as at the squad’s 2020 high-altitude training camp on the Katse Dam in Lesotho.

“We were actually in Lesotho when the national lockdown was announced,” says Barrow.

The squad hurried back to South Africa and within three days each member had their own personal home gym set up so that they could continue training.

“We need to adapt to the situation, stay focused, train as best we can and adjust to the environment as it evolves,” says Barrow. “It’s important to remember that the whole world is in this together. What we are seeing in South Africa is happening in New Zealand, England, Italy, China… everywhere. The teams that are best able to adapt and remain focused are the ones who will be successful."

Wisdom from the water

A Story of Courage is peppered with messages of strength, perseverance and resilience – both from the coaches and the rowers themselves.

“It’s about overcoming hardship, rising above difficult circumstances and embracing the will to succeed,” says Barrow. “It’s about beating cancer and going on to win an Olympic medal, as Lawrence Brittain did in 2016. Or about being the first black medallist at the World Junior Rowing Championships, despite having a heart irregularity – a claim held by SA’s Thabelo Masutha.”

The one-year postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics came as a blow to the RMB National Squad, who had already qualified a boat for the event.

“But we will carry on training as before with the intention of entering a fleet of boats in the Games next year,” says Barrow.

Alison Badenhorst, Head of Marketing and Communications at Rand Merchant Bank, says the bank is proud to be associated with the National Squad and with the documentary.

“There are some remarkable stories of courage and perseverance in this squad and the broader rowing community,” she says. “While the Olympics in Tokyo were going to be the final test of many years of dedication and hard work, the postponement of the games for another year has not dampened the team’s spirit. They are putting resilience into practice and remain committed to their goals despite not being able to train on the water. We continue to support and celebrate their courage.”

A Story of Courage can be viewed on the RMB website (www.rowing.rmb.co.za) and on Showmax. It will also be screened on a number of SuperSport channels between 13 May and 31 August 2020.

Keep up to date with the RMB National Squad on Facebook and Twitter.

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