Representing Zimbabwe at the Olympic Games was always the ultimate goal for 24-year-old female rower Micheen Thornycroft.
So determined was the talented former Peterhouse Girls student she dedicated much of her time to the physically-draining sporting discipline which required her to train three times a day starting at 5:15am every morning.
“Like every sports person it (qualifying for the Olympics) has always been my dream. So when I realised that I had qualified I was absolutely ecstatic as it was the culmination of all the hard work and effort that we had put in,” Thornycroft told NewsDay Sport in an interview yesterday morning at St George’s College.
Thornycroft will make her debut at the London Olympic Games which run from July 27 to August 12 this year after finishing first in the women’s singles sculls at Africa’s Continental Qualification Regatta in Alexandria, Egypt in November.
Eighteen-year-old male rower James Fraser-Mackenzie also booked a London ticket at the same event after finishing second in the B final.
The duo follows in the footsteps of female rower Elana Hill, who represented Zimbabwe at the Beijing Olympics on a special invitation the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC) received from the International Rowing Federation (IRF).
While qualifying for the games was an achievement on its own, Thornycroft is determined to lift the country’s flag high which she hopes will help raise the popularity of the sport in Zimbabwe.
“Initially our goal was to show we are the best in Africa and qualify. During the build up to the games we will have training camps in Spain and Italy — funded by IRF — and three World Cups in Serbia, Switzerland Germany.
Hopefully we will have an opportunity to measure our standards against those of other countries outside Africa,” said Thornycroft. She also expressed her gratitude for the support she had received from ZOC, Bridge Spar and Rolf Valley Gym.
The sprightly athlete, who initially wanted to become a tennis player before settling for rowing, has been in rigorous training with her Canadian-born coach Rachel Davis, who migrated to Zimbabwe in 1996 to coach rowing.
Born in Harare, Thornycroft was educated at Springville Primary School and Peterhouse Girls in Marondera. She took her rowing seriously at Peterhouse, the sport being a major summer discipline at the girls’ school.
She also excelled at tennis, but on leaving school she had to select one discipline and rowing was not at all a difficult choice.
Although not as popular as football or cricket, rowing in Zimbabwe has a history dating back to 1905 when a club was formed in Bulawayo and a course marked out at the Zambezi River in Victoria Falls.
The course went on to be used as a venue for the 1910 World Rowing Championships.
Rowing is a sport in which athletes race against each other on rivers, lakes or on the ocean, depending upon the type of race and discipline.
The boats are propelled by the reaction forces on oar blades as they are pushed against the water.
The sport can be recreational — focusing on learning the techniques required — and competitive where overall fitness plays a large role. It is also one of the oldest Olympic sports.