“Lee-Ann Persse is about to make her second appearance at an Olympic Games. Her first appearance was at the 2012 Olympics in London, where her and her pair partner came 2nd in the ‘B’ Final, 8th overall.”
Lee-Ann is a most determined person and never misses a day of training. It is this determination and sheer drive that has seen her reach the goal of reaching her first Olympics and now – her second. Lee-Ann always wanted to be a tennis player and admired Roger Federer. The same hard work, long hours and strong mind needed to make it in the tennis world has seen Lee-Ann reach the heights she has in the rowing world.
Lee-Ann started off at Boston University, where she was offered a Scholarship to row for Boston University. This was a great opportunity and opened her eyes to the kind of hard work, commitment and dedication needed to make it in the rowing world. Lee-Ann and her Boston coxed four rowed at The Head of The Charles Regatta and won their division, a much deserved victory for their determination and hard work. She also had the opportunity to row for the Boston 8 at Henley, one of the most prestigious regatta’s held on the Thames river every year. Lee-Ann was then called by the South African coach and asked if she would like to return to South Africa and try qualify a boat for the 2012 London Olympics. Being the patriotic person Lee is, she jumped at this once in a lifetime opportunity to row a boat at the Olympics for South Africa.
At the Rowing World Championships in 2015 Lee-Ann and her pair partner Naydene Smith managed to finish 5th in the world, an outstanding result and good position to be in the year running up to the Olympics. After World Champs the boat went through a selection process with three girls going for two spots. This is not always ideal, as rowing in a pair is extremely technical and it can take years for 2 athletes to find the exact technique and synchronisation to make a boat move effectively and quickly through the water. At the moment Lee-Ann is rowing with a new partner Kate and they seem to have found an amazing connection though early on and recently rowed in World Cup 1 in Italy and won gold at this Regatta, a huge confidence boost running up to the Olympics in Rio.
Lee-Ann says that over the last few years the South African Rowing Team have stepped up and standards have become higher and harder to achieve, making the environment they train in a competitive one, as the crews are always pushing each other to do their best. The squad has grown but is still small compared to other international rowing squads. This allows the South African squad to do the small things right and pay attention to detail, which allows the squad to make sure they look after their health and stay injury free.
When comparing Lee-Ann’s training in the run up to the last Olympics, she says running up to Rio she has put more big blocks of training together without major injury and illness, especially in the last year which has seen her become stronger, faster and able to train more consistently.
Having assessed the 2 world cups they have rowed in this year and being a new combination, Lee-Ann feels the pair still has room to improve and work towards a medal at the Rio Olympics, a very exciting prospect. Their main focus is always the process and never the outcome, “if your preparation is done properly, then the results will take care of themselves” says Lee-Ann.
With a much bigger squad going to the Rio Olympics than the London Olympics, spirits and team vibe are high and every-one is pushing each other to do their best! Lee-Ann and the South African Rowing team are currently in Rio preparing for their heats on Sunday 7th August.
Photos of Lee-Ann in Lucerne in Switzerland for the 2nd World Cup of the year. All the big crews pitched up at this regatta to see where they stand 2 months away from the Rio Olympics.