By Daniel Nhakaniso
Manchester – England-based Zimbabwean rower Stephen Cox clinched his place in the Men’s Single Sculls for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games with a fourth-place finish at the 2023 World Rowing African Continental Olympic and Paralympic Qualification Regatta at Tunis Lake in Tunisia on Wednesday.
Cox, who is a Corporal in the British Army, clocked 7:25.22, to settle for fourth position in the men’s singles final.
The event was won by Egypt’s Abdelkhalek Elbanna – repeating his performance from 2019, where he also won the African Qualification Regatta, en route to the Tokyo Olympics.
In second place was, Algeria’s Sid Ali Boudina, who qualified for this third Olympic Games while Mohamed Taieb (Tunisia) completed the podium places.
Harare-born Cox, who now resides in Henley-on-Thames, a town and civil parish on the River Thames in Oxfordshire, England, finished fourth ahead of Andre Matias of Angola.
“An end to one hell of a season, but a great one. I managed to qualify for the Paris Olympics, hard work does pay off. Looking forward to an amazing holiday and then back to work. I can’t thank everyone enough for all the support on this journey, without whom this wouldn’t be possible,” an elated Cox said in a post on his Instagram page after his qualification.
It’s been a busy year for the former Peterhouse College student, who placed 35th out of 46 competitors at the 2023 World Rowing Championships last month in the men’s single scull at Lake Sava, in Belgrade, Serbia.
Qualification for the Olympic Games is the culmination of years of hard work for Cox, who has represented Zimbabwe for the last seven years at the World Cups and World Championships.
At last season’s World Champs, he finished 31st out of the 35 entrants.
Early this season he raced at the Zagreb World Cup as well as in the UK at the Metropolitan and Marlow Regattas in June, achieving very good results.
Cox has been working with respected coach Julian Scrivener, who rowed for Great Britain in the World Championships on a number of occasions in the 1980s and competed with Olympian Steve Redgrave.
Scrivener still races regularly for the Worcester-based Upton Rowing Club and remains one of the best scullers in the country in his age group.
But he has turned to coaching to give Cox the benefit of all his knowledge and experience.
He will be accompanying Cox to the Paris 2024 Summer Olympic Games which are scheduled to be held from July 26 to August 11.
Meanwhile, after Cox’s achievement in Tunis, the Rowing Association of Zimbabwe have now qualified one boat for the Paris Games thus far and will look to qualify more rowing boats in May 2024 at the Final Olympic and Paralympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland.