At the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, there were two African countries that qualified: South Africa in the men’s eight, and Zimbabwe in the women’s pair. In the 28 years since, with an incredible effort to develop the sport of rowing, there has been a steady march forward in the number of African nations qualifying for the Games.

At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games the number had jumped to nine, through a mixture of World Championship qualification, African continental qualification and tripartite invitations. Looking toward Tokyo, there are now 13 African countries qualified. Among them are five countries that have never before qualified for an Olympic Games in rowing: Benin, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Namibia and Uganda.

These five countries have varying experience in the sport of rowing, but all of them are enthused about their confirmed tickets to Tokyo.

Kouadio Franck N’Dri qualified the men’s single sculls for the Ivory Coast at the African Continental qualification.  N’Dri says qualifying is an immense joy and an incredible dream. “It’s a huge experience in the world of rowing for me, because I achieved my late father’s dream. He himself was a competitive kayaker and believed immensely in me. I cannot wait to be among all the top athletes in the world of rowing.”

N’Dri describes the steps necessary for him to achieve this first for his country. “I had support from my coach, Tim Turner, who gave everything for me. He is a former rower for the Canadian National team and an Olympian. The first necessary step was to have a club where I could train as best as possible with the small amount of time I had.”

Turner helped organise for N’Dri to spend several months training at the Crafstbury Outdoor Center in Vermont, United States. N’Dri says that the coaches there gave him knowledge and attention that helped him succeed at the qualification regatta. “And it allowed me to train among the fabulous athletes there, who have a very high level in rowing.”

Privel Hinkati also qualified in the men’s single and will represent the first rower from Benin at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. “This qualification represents both the dream of a lifetime and the consecration of six years of relentless hard work,” Hinkati says. “It’s also a step in history to be the first rower from Benin to participate at the Games.”

For Hinkati it was necessary to take his training to a new level. “I succeeded in qualifying by being more professional in my approach and in my training. And I surrounded myself with a staff of professionals to watch out for all the details. Plus, the experiences from the previous years helped me a lot,” Hinkati says.

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In the women’s single sculls, Maike Diekmann qualified Namibia for the first time ever. She describes qualifying as, “the best feeling I have ever experienced.”

Diekmann picked up rowing in South Africa and says, “knowing that all the long hours of training and sacrifice have paid off is amazing. Now I am a hundred percent focused and motivated to be the best and fastest for the day I line up in Tokyo. Being the first ever Namibian rower to compete at the Olympic Games means a lot to me, is it’s a very special journey that I have been on and I am very proud to represent my small little nation at the Games.”

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For more information about the qualification system, please see the latest update on the COVID-19 virus here: http://www.worldrowing.com/news/update-march-2020-the-impact-the-covid-virus-rowing

For more information an updates about the Olympic Games, click here: http://www.worldrowing.com/events/2020-olympic-games-regatta/event-information