Lee-Ann Persse, who matriculated from Somerset College in 2006 has qualified to row for South Africa in the London Olympics next year.
On leaving Somerset College, Lee-Ann was granted a scholarship to study and row at Boston University in USA. In her first year there she was granted a seat in the Varsity 8 and rowed very successfully for them for the 2½ years that she was there. She went to Henley on Thames with Boston University in 2008 and then rowed in the W4- at The Head of the Charles Regatta (the largest regatta in the world) in 2009 where they won a gold medal for the first Collegiate team, having been beaten only by the USA W4-.
Lee-Ann then decided to call it a day in US and come back to SA in order to try and qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games.
She enrolled at Pretoria University for a Sport Science degree and immediately joined the SA rowing squad. In 2010 she and her partner, Hayley Arthur, had an indifferent year, plauged by injury and not being selected to go to World Championships in New Zealand, which was a major disappointment and setback.
Not to be too disillusioned, however, Lee-Ann continued to train at full strength and earlier this year she was put in a boat with Naydene Smith and the two of them have had a very successful international season.
They rowed in a regatta in Essen, Germany, earlier in the year where they won a gold medal. They then went on to win silver at the 2nd World Cup in Hamburg and made an A final at the 3rd World Cup in Lucerne where they came 6th, ranking them 5th in the world going into World Championships.
They rowed their heat at World Championships in Bled, Slovenia, coming 2nd and putting them straight into an A/B semi-final. They then got a 3rd place in the semi-final which secured them a place in the A final at World Champs and also secured them the Olympic qualification for the women’s pair. Although Lee-Ann and Naydene have qualified the boat for the Olympics, they still need to face a selection process to secure them a seat in the boat at the Olympics. Having qualified the boat though, and the progress that Lee-Ann and Naydene have made in such a short period of time, they are going to continue working timeously in order to secure a seat in the pair for next year’s Olympics.”
Report compiled by Nicholas Persse
(Lee-Ann’s brother, matriculated from Somerset College in 2004)