“We do it for our dad,” say school sculling champions
When Kevin Williams passed away from a hepatitis variant in 2015, his son, Samuel, and daughter, Madison, started rowing to keep his memory alive. Now, both are excelling in the sport in Johannesburg, just as their dad did when he was a rower in the first eight at King Edward VII School.
Samuel, who is currently in matric, attended King David Linksfield until Grade 6, and then went on to King Edward VII Preparatory School and Kind Edward VII. “Rowing for my dad is very important for me,” he says. “I wear his army tags around my neck when I row.”
“I’m not sure there are many rowers out there who are Jewish, and Samuel has achieved phenomenal results in his school rowing,” says his proud mother, Terri Williams.
“Achieving rowing colours at King Edward VII was my dream since Grade 8, and on Friday [24 March] I achieved it,” says Samuel. He has also received a gold medal in the U15 South African Championships, a silver medal in the U19 Gauteng Championships, and U19 seventh place in South Africa for sculling 2023. His squad also received a bronze medal for U19 in the South African Championships 2023.
Madison is in Grade 10 at King David Linksfield, and began rowing only six months ago. In that time, she has raced at the Gauteng Championships 2022 and South Africa Championships 2023. She rows for Victoria Lake Rowing Club in Germiston.
“Learning to row was challenging as well as conquering the fear of falling off the boat,” says Madison. “I love how different the sport is, and following in my dad’s legacy and my brother’s achievements. I know my dad is watching over Samuel and me as we row.”
Samuel says what he loves most about the sport is “being on the water and the peace I feel while rowing”.
Terri, a single mother, has thrown herself behind her kids and their passion. “It’s hard work and long hours on the water for the kids. Travelling to regattas and water training – usually at the Roodepoort Dam – is a huge dedication for any parent. But I love the schlepping and the dedication they show to the sport.”
While gliding along the water looks simple, it can be hard on the body. “The back can take strain if you’re not rowing correctly, and you get loads of blisters as you cannot wear any gloves,” Terri says.
Samuel says the challenges of school rowing are being “strong and dedicated enough to make the first in each boat class”.
What keeps them motivated is the diversity of the other schools and people that row, the freedom of the water, and the challenge of rowing at regattas, where medals are up for grabs in different categories.
Samuel hopes to row for a university next year, and Madison would love to get to a South African Championships final in March 2024.
Terri recommends that other youngsters try the sport. “It’s a wonderful way to meet new friends and interact with other schools and cultures, it’s great for overall fitness, and you get to take part in a unique sport on the water. With hard work and dedication, you can achieve your dreams.”