Adriaan Venter’s Rowing Journey to the South Africa Olympic Team


Adriaan Venter’s journey to joining the South Africa Olympic team is a story of perseverance, dedication, and the willingness to try something new. Venter, a retired swimmer who swam all his life and in the US collegiate system, found his love for rowing in 2019 when he spectated the Head of the Charles. Watching the sport from the bank, he was captivated by the grace and veiled brutality of rowing.

To test his potential in the sport, Venter pulled a 2k on the erg, which he completed in 6:24, giving him the confidence to become a rower. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Venter spent the spring and summer of 2020 building his fitness on the erg. He then joined a “learn to scull” beginner course in the fall, where he learned the basics of launching, landing, feathering, and stopping. Although challenging, he was completely hooked by the feeling of a racing single humming underneath him.

Determined to hone his skills, Venter staged his own Rocky Balboa-style camp at his in-laws’ lake house in North Carolina during the winter, where he trained on the water and the ergo, and focused on his work as a software developer. After training for a winter, Venter entered the 2021 C.R.A.S.H.-Bs and did another 2k ergo test, which he completed in 6:12, earning him an invitation to join the Riverside High Performance Group.

As a 26-year-old novice with little experience, Venter initially struggled to keep up with national-level athletes training in single sculls. He flipped the boat twice during his first set of pieces, but he humbled himself and persevered. Venter continued to improve his fitness and technique, focusing on different aspects of his stroke each day.

In 2021, Venter competed in the M1x at US summer nationals, landing in 11th place, and he earned an entry to the Club 1x event at Head of the Charles, where he finished fifth. The following year, Venter trained hard in the months leading up to Head of the Charles, where he won first place and set a new record time in the Club 1x. In November 2022, Venter flew down to South Africa for trials, where he earned an invitation to the RMB National Squad Altitude Camp in Dullstroom. He continued to improve his performance, shaving another six seconds off his 2k time, slipping in under six minutes for the first time.

Looking back, Venter realized that he had been in the perfect position to start his rowing career, both physically and financially, but it was his support system, especially his wife, that made it all possible. In February 2023, Venter and his wife moved to South Africa, where he joined the RMB National Squad full time.

Venter’s story is one of taking chances and pushing oneself beyond their comfort zone. With his unwavering determination and hard work, Venter has proven that anything is possible, and that anyone can pursue their passion and achieve their dreams, no matter where they start.

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