Teenager’s oarsome achievement

Lukho Mbongisa of Duncan Village, right, who has been selected to the SA Junior Club rowing team, with his coach, Jean Ellingson, after the 2017 SA National Rowing Championships
Lukho Mbongisa of Duncan Village, right, who has been selected to the SA Junior Club rowing team, with his coach, Jean Ellingson, after the 2017 SA National Rowing Championships
Image: Supplied

Duncan Village teenager Lukho Mbongisa, has been selected to represent the South African Junior Clubs rowing team in Zimbabwe later this month.

Mbongisa, 16, – who is a pupil at John Bisseker Secondary – said he took up the sport, by accident.

Explaining his quirky introduction to the sport, he said the school had two buses – one that ferried the rowers and the other, rugby players.

One day just before deciding to board the bus with the rugby players, his friend – a fellow-pupil – told him to get on the “wrong” bus.

And, to cut a long story short, Mbongisa took to the sport of rowing straight away.

“The first month was just for fun but then I became more serious when Jean [his coach] spoke to us about our future in rowing,” said Mbongisa, adding that after winning his first ergo trial he knew “rowing likes me”. Mbongisa said the only people who knew about rowing in his community were the ones who were involved in it.

He said this situation extended to his parents, who initially banned him from attending rowing practice sessions as they were scared of the water.

But he kept sneaking out for rowing sessions and, after realising how much her son liked the sport, his Mbongisa’s mom gave him the green light.

He said when he first learnt of his selection to the squad, he had thought it was a mistake, but doubt turned to excitement, when it was confirmed.

Now the talented rower can’t wait to put his skills to the test against other competing African countries.

The teenager expects to win and hopes that if he comes first in his favourite boat, the scull, it might open the door for him to be selected too the Youth Olympic Games and help secure him a scholarship to a school which offers rowing.

Buffalo Rowing club head coach, Kate Godfrey, said Mbongisa’s name was one of many brought before a selection committee which looked at the merits of each athlete.

Godfrey said the rower needed an amount of R10000 in order to join the tour. So far only three-quarters of the funding had been secured.

She said the squad, which would be heading to our northern neighbour later this month, would first take part in a 10-day camp, where boats would be selected. Following that, a regatta would be staged between the participating nations.

Competing nations are all Southern African countries, including the likes of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Malawi.

Godfrey said that Mbongisa’s selection was great news for the club, which is only three years in the making and that one of their major focus areas was development of the sport.

“It shows the sport is actually for everyone if they put their mind to it,” she said.

Head coach of the SA squad for the upcoming camp, Jean Ellingson, who has coached Mbongisa since he started off in the sport, believes that her prodigy has a bright future in the sport.

She is confident that he will one day make an appearance for South Africa at the Olympic Games.

Ellingson said she could see from the start that Mbongisa had a knack for the sport, saying he was dedicated, strong, had the right mentality and took quickly to the technical side of rowing.

“He is already an inspiration to the younger kids,” she said, adding that they looked up to Mbongisa who had been elected as club captain.

She thanked RMB and the East London Boating Association for their donation that will see her and Mbongisa going on this tour.

They are still in need of sponsorship however, to make up the full amount.

Sizwe Lawrence Ndlovu, one of the South African lightweight four, that made history by winning the African continent’s first Olympic gold in rowing at the 2012 London Games, said he had noticed at a Johannesburg camp last year the young rower’s passion, talent and the hunger he had to make it in the sport.

“Rowing means a lot to me. I will never leave rowing,” said Mbongisa.