Hong Kong Rowing Gold and Value of Friendship


Hong Kong Rowing Gold and Value of Friendship

When I first met Anna Fisher, she gave me a stern look – and I knew she would become my friend. Anna is a tall, athletic rower from Hong Kong, who became the first woman to complete the 45km Around the Island race in a coastal scull in 2020. She arrived in South Africa for the World Rowing Masters Regatta held at the Roodeplaat Dam. A week later, she won five gold medals at the regatta, including the Women A1x single sculls superfinal. And even though her stern look never went away, we connected over the four days of racing.

At that point, I could not imagine that I would hold a gold medal at the 45th Hong Kong Rowing Championship two months later. The idea started with a simple question that I asked Anna about the championships – I wanted to see if it was possible. I was also in luck because my friend and sculptor Steven Wilkins was planning a trip to Hong Kong as well. The early morning water practice and long erg sessions are obviously behind the win, but the simple human connections also play a big part. On paper, I am a novice rower with 11 months of experience. When Anna helped with my rowing resume, she changed my 4th and 5th place results with an “experienced sculler” line. But the constant desire to meet people and be part of the sport gave me opportunities to take the next steps.

Hong Kong lies on a windy island. On the race day, the rain was filling up our boat as we were waiting at the start. The course is set on a tidal river that flows into Tolo Harbour. And you could feel the combination of the long tidal wave and the waves that hurling winds brought. Even though the quick start protocol was in place due to the weather conditions, aligning looked more like a dance, with boats blown out of their lanes. We started well. I could hear the other crews rowing through the buoys and see that we were ahead. I suddenly got that feeling that we can’t give up now. At the 500m mark, Steve told me to dump the clutch. As the waves stubbornly tried to knock the blades out of our hands, we heard the finish horn. We won Gold in the Masters B2x Open, and I was proud to go back home to South Africa. And I know that behind this successful trip is work of so many people – my friends, Anna and Steve, my coaches Murray Bales-Smith and Hilary Abraham, my club, and the South African Rowing community. Thank you all!

Steven Wilkins was first in the Masters B1x category, and Anna Fisher won the Women Masters A1x race. I came my regular 4th in singles.

Pavel Dabrytski.


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