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30 August 2018 | in Rowing, NUSF News

My greatest achievement - FISU medal


For young up-and-coming South African rower Mzwandile Sotsaka, his podium finish at the FISU World University Championships in China is the pinnacle of his blossoming career so far, yet the determined rower insists this is just the start.


The 22-year-old University of Johannesburg student has been a rising star on the South African rowing scene, earning gold in a number of local university regattas, before his first taste of international competition at the World University Championships in Poland two years ago, where he placed eighth. Last year Sotsaka managed to qualify for the World Under-23 Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, but could only finish 12th at the high-profile event.


Yet the talented rower would not let the minor setback bring him down as he made it third time lucky on the international stage this year as he, along with partner Bradley Betts, powered his way to third place in the heavyweight men’s doubles race at the University Championships in Shanghai, bagging the first international medal of his career.


“It was an awesome feeling, and the first time I managed to make the A-final at a World Championship event,” he proudly tells FISU of his feat in China. “To couple that with a medal is great reward for a hard season of training.” Sotsaka admits the Championships proved to be a tough challenge both on and off the water, but he has grown immensely from the experience in Asia.


“It was quite an interesting experience, from eating a variety of foods, to a very different climate, and the extreme heat and humidity,” he says. “But what I took away from the tour was that you have to ensure you overcome all the hurdles that may come your way, because everyone is there to win – and that is why the standard of competition was so high.”


Introduced to rowing by elder brother Katlego in high school, Sotsaka hasn’t looked back since, committing his life to rowing while simultaneously studying and working part-time as well, an impressive juggling act which the dedicated rower admits takes its toll at times.

“I balance it with great difficulty,” he laughs. “We train every day, twice a day with the National Students Team. It becomes extremely tricky to ensure you finish all the training whilst trying to pass university, however good time management is what gets me through it all.  I am in my final year of my Bachelor of Science in Maths and Applied Maths. I have already started working in my field, where I am currently completing my internship at a software development company. After my rowing years, I will look to make a career out of it.”



The balancing act was all worth for the 2017 University of Johannesburg Rower of the Year following his bronze medal in China, with all his hard work finally paying off.


“Winning this medal is without a doubt my greatest and proudest achievement,” he says. “Standing on the world podium is every sportsman's dream, and I am privileged enough to have done it.” Yet this is far from the end for Sotsaka, who is already looking ahead to his next goal. “My short term goal is to break into the senior national team, while my long term goal is to qualify for the Olympic Games. And perhaps I can get a medal there too.”