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SA rowing pair fifth in Games final

South Africa’s men’s rowing pair Ramon di Clemente and Shaun Keeling were unable to provide their country with its first medal of the Olympic Games at the rowing park on Saturday, having to settle for fifth place.

Canada were first off the mark, going through 500m in 1:35,03 seconds with Australia 0,49 seconds adrift and the South African combination in fifth behind New Zealand and Germany.

Di Clemente and Keeling put their effort in over the next quarter to go through halfway in fourth ahead of Germany, but it had been too much, too soon, and they were unable to hold off a resurgent German crew in the final 100m. The crews were separated by only 0,43 seconds on the line.

Australia overhauled Canada at 1 200m to take the gold in 6:37,44, with New Zealand holding the bronze position for the whole race.

”It’s always been an amazing experience for me. Last year I was at the under-23 level and this year I jumped into senior level with Ramon and we went from a C final [13 to 18 place] at Munich to fifth in the A final in the Olympics,” said Keeling, who was unable to row the boat back from the semifinal due to the effort he put into the race.

”For me it’s just a major achievement to be up there racing with the best in the world. I’m just disappointed that we never got a medal, for as much as they are the best in the world, we want to be better.”

The combination only got together this year, initially with Di Clemente in the rear, but their improvement since the Athens bronze medal winner’s move into stroke has been phenomenal and bodes well for the future.

”It’s been pushing and squeezing every day to try to get up to speed in six months. I think this last race was just a bit too much for us. There’s been anxiety and nerves every day to get up there because we have to improve — that’s not a normal training environment and it took a lot out of us, but we’ve been up to the challenge,” said Di Clemente, who believes they can build on this combination for at least two more Olympics.

”We’ve had a great regatta and really tried our utmost to stick with the best, but it’s been a huge accomplishment to be in the final. You’re sitting with the best in the world and everyone aspires to be at the Olympics, especially in the sport of rowing. It’s the only thing we’ve got — that’s what we strive for.” — Sapa

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