READY TO RUMBLE Inès Mars just before her race at the South African National Championships 2019 at Roodeplaat dam in Pretoria. Photo: Supplied

Row, row, rowing straight to World Champs

Gita Fourie

Two years ago, Inès Mars, a final year BAcc LLB-student, browsed around the Societies fair on the Rooiplein and decided to put her skills to the test on the rowing machine.

She had no prior rowing experience. Today she is part of the provisional squad that qualified for the World University Championships in Croatia next year. But Mars does not consider herself to be more gifted or special than anyone else. She ascribes her success to her self-discipline and motivation and says, “Anyone can do it!”

Gita Fourie had a chat with Mars about her training, time management and how it feels to be one of the few women representatives for a sport like rowing.

What does your daily schedule look like regarding your training?

In season I’ll train anything between two and six hours a day. Because we are so far away from water, it also takes a lot of my time to drive to our training spaces. Most of the time we train at Elgin Grabouw Country Club, but in these months when you train with the crew you will train at Misverstanddam which is a two-hour drive. Mostly I’ll train from Monday to Thursday on the indoor rower and in the gym and in the weekends, I mostly go train on the water.

With such an intense schedule, how do you manage your time to maintain a balanced lifestyle?

My dad taught me that your life is like a “driepoot,” if one of the legs aren’t there your “potjie” is going to fall over. These three legs are your physical health, emotional and social health and academic health. Each of these legs should take up a third of your life. It’s quite interesting being a student athlete, though. You’re never going to train as hard as someone who isn’t a student and you’re never going to be able to study as hard as someone who is just a student.

What do you consider to be the most difficult aspect of rowing?

The most difficult part of rowing by yourself is actually showing up. It’s not difficult to show up for a team. You definitely need mental toughness. It was especially difficult for me, because I didn’t have a coach this whole year. So there is no one who is going to check up on you if you missed a training session. You constantly have to be motivated while training.

What advice would you give to people considering this as a professional sport?

Rowing isn’t one of those sports where you had to go to the best school for rowing or had to have training in rowing from the age of five. If you look at the Olympic rowers, there are people there who started rowing two years ago. Rowing does not require too much talent; it just requires grit.

How do you deal with being a woman in a male-dominated sport?

It’s difficult because you don’t have a lot of people around you that you can look up to. I’ve trained with the boys this whole time, although it is tough at times, they push you and support you a lot. It gives you a competitive edge. You know what they say? If you can’t beat them, join them.

Mars hopes to be able to wear the green and gold one day. She wants to be a representative for the sport and become someone other aspiring female rowers can look up to.

She encourages others to give the sport a chance as well. She says that people should stop limiting themselves to highly publicized sports like rugby and cricket and maybe consider making waves somewhere else.

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