By RENALDO DORSETT
IT marked a first for the Bahamas as a pair of 17-year-old rowers competed with the best athletes in the sport on a major stage.
The two-man team of Lex Fountain and William Stanhope finished 18th overall at the World Junior Rowing Championships last weekend in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Competing in the junior men’s double scull, they finished sixth in heat two in a time of 07:24.52 seconds. Italy won the heat in 6:38.02, followed by Slovenia in 6:52.60 and Japan was third in 6:59.92.
In the repchage stage, they finished sixth once again, this time in 7:56.24. In the C Final, they finished sixth in a time of 8:05.72. Italy eventually won the gold medal in 6:38.02, Slovenia won silver in 6:52.60 and Japan won bronze in 6:59.92.
The country’s first appearance at a rowing event of this calibre, their participation was also an attempt to increase the profile of the sport locally.
The pair is coached by Kyle Chea, president of the Rowing Club.
“Lex has been rowing for about two years, William has been rowing for six months and has come quite a long way in a short time so we are just really, really excited to have such talent rowing for us.”
Chea reiterated that the appearance at the World Junior Championships will continue to bring awareness to the sport.
“The biggest challenge is building awareness. These guys go on the water everyday at 5:30am. We only get Sundays off.
“It’s a lot of stuff that people don’t see. We’re also limited by weather factors and because the boats are so sensitive we need the flattest water possible,” he said.
“By attending these competitions and getting the Bahamas’ name out there on the rowing scene, it helps our effort. When other people start to notice and realise where the value is, that’s where other people will start to notice locally.”
The junior championships served as the test event for next year’s Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games and will be staged at the regatta course at Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, Ipanema beach in Rio.
Athletes from 54 countries entered the regatta, including a full team of 13 boats from both Germany and the United States.
The first FISA Youth Regatta was held in 1967 and has been held every year since then, being raised to the status of FISA Junior Champs in 1970 and Junior World Champs in 1985.