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Interview: Academy for Canoe Development

Latest developments of the Academy since the interview:

The Academy might be in danger in that the Department of Infrastructure wants to develop at Roodeplaat Dam and asked the Academy to leave. Roodeplaat Dam may be the only perfect setting to train for the Academy. There are rumours that some of the Department employees will change their mind and not take the dreams away of these kids. Let’s hope they do.


Fouché van Tonder is one of the directors at the Academy for Canoe Development at Roodeplaat Dam in Pretoria. He is a former Springbok rower, but gave it up last year to focus more on coaching children from local townships. Sulet Linde talked to him to find out more.



Van Tonder has been rowing for 10 years and has represented South Africa in various international championships and World Cups.


Tell me a little bit more about the Academy:

We teach children from nearby townships (plot 175 in Kameeldrift) how to row.  We have a Development Program and a High Performance program.


Academy for Canoe Development

Academy for Canoe Development

How many of you are involved?

We are three directors: my dad (Philip van Tonder) runs the Development Program , I run the High Perfomance program and we have a social worker who handles the welfare part of the business. We have a group of teachers and psychologists who helps with the children.


What exactly does the Development programme involve?

We get children from the townships and teach them how to row (for free). We have an After School program  (three days a week) where we give extra classes in school subjects and we also have a Food program  (three days a week) where we give them something to eat.


What do you do exactly?

I am the director of the High Performance program. I coach the children and top athletes in sprint kayaking.


What is sprint kayaking?

It’s when you sprint down in a straight lane within 200 m, 500 m or 1000 m distance in a single, double or a four-man kayak (K4).


Are there mostly just boys at the Academy?

No, we teach rowing to both boys and girls. The girls are actually better rowers.


At which age do you start teaching them?

We have an U/8 team, so we start at 7 years old.


How many children are involved?

We have about 60 children that are part of the Development Program  and 20 in the High Performance program .


How successful is the Academy?

Very successful.  The kids are performing on a National level. One of them, Carlton Tshantsa was chosen to be a part of the U/18 South African team. There is a possibility that he could get chosen to go to the junior world cup.


What are your goals for the future?

We want to send the children and athletes from the High Performance Program  to the next Olympics (most of them were too young to go last year). Our juniors and U/23 team will be participating at the World Cup in Canada and the African Championship.

I am coaching my sister and our goal is to win a medal at this year’s U/23 World Cup.

The ultimate goal for the children in the Development Program is to get them into the High Performance Program.