Against the odds for Angola rowing
Three years ago Angola took its first rower through to the international scene. His name was Andre Matias and he raced at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships in the lightweight men’s single. For a nation that has a history of rowing dating back 130 years, this was a huge step.
Now Angola has taken rowing one step further. A container-load of boats, oars, spare parts and rowing machines have arrived as the country pushes forward in the rowing realm.
This recent push is built on a long, albeit bumpy, rowing history. During the Portuguese colonial era rowing was introduced. The sole club, the Naval Club of Luanda recently celebrated 130 years. Following independence in 1975, the ensuing civil war stopped any rowing activity. The civil war ended in 2002.
Angola’s coach, athlete and technical director, Heraclito Guimaraes has been instrumental in helping to get the new shipment of boats to his country. Guimaraes rowed internationally a couple of years ago and he is enthusiastic to see the sport in Angola continue to develop. The Angolan Nautical Sports Federation supports the development and has offered rowing coaches training to clubs.
Getting the shipment of boats to Angola was a 13 month process that was completely driven locally and it marks the first time since the civil war that Angola has imported rowing boats. “All of the process was new,” says Guimaraes, “and we had to understand what to do.” The boats are a mixture of flat water boats and coastal boats as well as four new rowing machines.
Rowing in Angola currently takes place on the harbour bay of Luanda (Angola’s capital city). This is where the Naval Club of Luanda is based. Guimaraes expects more clubs to start up and also an expansion into coastal rowing at some stage to utilise the 1900km of coastline.
In a nation where football is the main sport, Guimaraes says the general population knows “almost nothing” about the sport, thus Guimaraes has taken to the streets to attract interest. “I invite people on street to try to learn and win the challenge. I tell them, ‘This is just for the best. Are you one of them? Prove it to us!’”
Guimaraes has received a positive reaction when he talks about rowing, “Everybody says, ‘I want to experience that.’”
For the future Guimaraes hopes that Angola can prepare athletes for the 2016 Rio Olympics. “Success is a result of hard working, and that is what we are doing every single day...work, work, work.”
“Nobody thought that we would have 10 boats on the water in March 2013, and nobody believed that one week after having the boats arrive in country I would have 10 athletes rowing alone! This weekend I will have all 10 boats with athletes rowing.”