Last month, Thaakir and co won gold at the South African Rowing Championships – clubs only regatta – in quad scull and doubles. They followed that up with a fourth placed finish in the final at the SA nationals which was contested between both schools and clubs.
Wesley Freese won gold in the single scull event and was crowned the SA champion.
Thaakir’s teammate in the double scull at the club championships, Kaamil Adams, 17, who is the most experienced member at the club, said he had sleepless nights leading up to national showpiece and that the team did well against the top rowers in the country.
Thaakir, a Grade 12 pupil at Grassy Park High School, said the competition was tough but he enjoyed the challenge.
“I’ve only been rowing for six months so it feels really good to be a South African champion in such a short space of time. Credit must go to my coach, Pier du Plessis and teammates who have been pushing me to improve my technique,” said Thaakir.
“My coach is astounded by my ability because it usually takes a few years to master the techniques, and I’ve caught on very quickly.
“My first regatta was a time trial in a quad boat, in Misverstand. Then we competed in the Western Cape Championships in February – where I came second in the singles and our team came first in the quad,” he said.
Prior to rowing, the youngster said he enjoyed any sport that involved physical contact. He did judo and was a regular competitor, and played rugby for the school.
He said rowing wasn’t a love at first sight scenario. His first day of training involved some strenuous drills on the rowing machine, and it was only at his second session that he got the opportunity to go out on the water.
“Kaamil introduced me to the sport. He’s been rowing for the past five years now. On the first day of training it wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be, we did some drills just to get the movement right.
“Later that week, we went out on the water and I was very nervous. But, it went well because we never row alone and usually double up with someone who has more experience.
“I doubled up with my coach, who taught me how to keep the boat stable; how to recover if you mess up; the techniques with the blades and all the basics.
“We rowed for just over an hour and it was then where I just took a passion for the sport. I never knew a thing about rowing and had no idea about the fitness requirements,” he said.
Thaakir said the feedback he got following his first strokes was that he needed to improve on his handle work – due to the precision needed to not cause any friction on the water.
For teammate Kaamil, it was his second appearance at the SA championships. Last year he won silver in the doubles, but said winning gold last month was overwhelming.
“It was something spectacular to win gold and I think the bond we share in the team now is much more. Just going to SA champs is an achievement alone, so winning gold is a big deal,” said Kaamil.
“Rowing requires a lot of discipline and dedication. And, when I asked Thaakir to come try it out, he was in good physical condition and I knew he would stick it out.
“He did well and adapted quickly to the sport, and now we are both SA champions,” he said.
The Grassy Park rowing club was formed at the end of 2014 by the remaining members of the Grassy Park High School rowing team. However, the lack of equipment and resources did not work in their favour, which saw the majority of the members throw in the towel.
“We decided to make the change to a club so that we could take children from lots of different schools. We started out with 30 rowers and only had one single boat and one quad,” said Du Plessis.
“Because of the lack of resources, it meant that not everyone could get out onto the water and we ended up with just five members. This year we started with 20 and now have six members.
“Now, we have three single boats, some doubles, a quad and have more equipment still coming in. We have a good relationship with Alfred Rowing Club which has been helping us.
“Transport is still a problem. All the children are from the Grassy Park area and walk to and from training. When we prepare for competitions it means they need to practice before school and it’s still dark at that time.
“This year we looking to improve on the numbers at the club and will do some presentations at various other schools to attract more members,” she said.