overcome stage-fright when she competes at the world’s biggest sporting showcase in London next month. She is part of a seven Zimbabwean athletes who have qualified for the 2012 London Olympic Games so far and is set to write her own piece of history when she take part in the woman’s singles scull regatta.
Thornycroft will be making her debut appearance at the London Olympic Games, which will run from July 27 to August 12, after finishing first in the women’s singles sculls at Africa’s Continental Qualification Regatta in Alexandria, Egypt, in November last year.
Eighteen-year-old male rower James Fraser-Mackenzie also booked a ticket to the London Games at the same event after finishing second in the B final. Before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, Zimbabwe was last represented in rowing at the Olympics during the 1992 Barcelona showcase in Spain where Susanne Standish-White and Maggie Gibson took part in the woman’s coxless pairs event.
They, however, returned home empty-handed and since that time no other Zimbabwean rower was selected for Team Zimbabwe Team to the Games until the last Olympics in China. Thornycroft might not be the first Zimbabwean to row in the Olympics, but she is the first to earn her place there through qualifiers. Rower Elena Hill competed in the Beijing Olympics in 2008, but only on a special invitation from the International Rowing Federation. Thornycroft earned her place there. It is the first time that we are actually going in as competitors. We are not going to fill the numbers,” said Rachel Davis, Thornycroft’s coach. Born in Harare, Thornycroft was educated at Springvale House and Peterhouse Girls School in Marondera, where she took her rowing seriously with the sport being a major summer discipline at the school. The 25-year-old Thornycroft dreamt of competing in the Summer Olympic Games and she was a skilled tennis player, but focused exclusively on rowing after leaving Peterhouse, a private school in Marondera where she met Davis who later became her coach. It’s always been a dream since I was tiny. It was a goal you write down but don’t tell anyone because you don’t think it will come true, it’s over and above something I’ve ever wished for,” said Thornycroft.
After qualifying for the London Games last year, Thornycroft never wasted time in preparations and was busy with her schedule preparing for next month’s event and she felt fully equipped going into the battle.
Thornycroft took her preparations for the Olympic Games in London a step further when she participated in the Samsung World Rowing Cup III, which was held in Munich, Germany. The World Cup tournament attracted the largest number of entries of the 2012 Samsung World Rowing Cup series, with nearly 700 athletes racing and 51 nations taking part and she won the C final and was placed 13th overall. Being in Europe has been exactly what I needed leading up to the Games. It has allowed me to take part in the World Cups where I get to race against most of the girls that I will be racing against at the Olympics. I have learnt so much from every race about my competitors as well as myself.
“I think I did well at the World Cup since it was my first time and racing against the rest of the world. So far I have competed in the Paulo D’Alorja in Italy where I finished 6th in the A final. This was a top level regatta, but was not as well attended as the World Cups. Then a few weeks ago I raced at Lucerne in Switzerland at the Second Rowing Cup and finished 10th overall. I feel very much prepared and I am looking forward to the Games. I am aiming to finish in the top 12 which I think will be a good result given its my first Olympics and my first year racing internationally,” added Thornycroft. With many Zimbabweans banking on swimmer Kirsty Coventry for medals, chances are a new germ has been born and with less than a month to go before the start of the London Olympics, the stage has now been set for Thornycroft to prove whether she is a real deal or not. Thornycroft’s coach Davis is relatively excited about the London Olympics and is expecting a good show from her student, as she believes she had surpassed expectations.
“We are really happy with way things have gone so far, we had a plan at the end of last year on what we needed to do in order to get her prepared as much as we could for the 2012 London Olympics. We have attended World Cups in Europe this year and she had to go there with the mindset that she had to be competitive from the onset and we are really happy with her results so far and we are looking forward to the Games,” said Davis.