By RENALDO DORSETT
AS they prepare to travel and face off against the sport’s top ranked athletes in international competition and attempt to increase the profile of the sport locally, Bahamas Rowing will field a two-member team to the World Rowing Junior Championships.
Lex Fountain and William Stanhope will represent the Bahamas at the World Junior Rowing Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 5-9.
Sanctioned by FISA, the international Rowing Federation, the duo will represent the first time that the Bahamas is sending a team to this calibre of rowing event.
Fountain, 17, said there is always a similar reaction of disbelief when someone hears the Bahamas is participating in international rowing, a notion they look to change.
“Their initial reaction is ‘there’s rowing in the Bahamas?’ or most people don’t realise what rowing is. They think you’re going kayaking. It’ll be good for us because we can get the word out for rowing in the Bahamas,” he said.
“We trained hard. I don’t know what to expect because this is the World Championships, so it’s at such a high level, but we trained hard and we are prepared.”
Stanhope, 17, said the pair felt an added sense of responsibility being the first from the country to compete at this level.
“It’s nice to be the first to do it because someone has to be there to set the path for rowing over here, anytime we do something we’re the first to do it,” he said. “I think that our training has prepared us really well to compete. I think we are rowing similar times to the others in the field so we’re on a level playing field with them.”
The pair is coached by Kyle Chea, president of the Rowing Club.
“These young men were selected to participate in the World Junior Rowing Championships. They will be sailing in the junior men’s double scull. That will be two oars per each person, two man crew, no coxswains. It should be a pretty exciting field,” he said. “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 have been 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 will act 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 have entered the regatta, including a full team of 13 boats from both Germany and the United States.
Live race tracker, audio streaming, results, race reports, photo gallery and live blog as well as updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will be available throughout the regatta on www.worldrowing.com. The official hashtag for the event: #WRJChamps.
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.