UFH - Rowing - Women - Asekho Jara (FSC)

University of Fort Hare rower Asekho Jara never considered leadership her strongest suit – until taking up the oars two years ago allowed her to discover an entirely different version of herself.

The 21-year-old, who won gold in the women’s Quad event at the recent Buffalo Regatta, has come into her own as a formidable stroke who leads from the front at the stern of the boat.

Jara, a B.Com law graduate who is pursuing a two-year LLB qualification at Fort Hare, came to the sport in January 2022.

The competitive dancer was intrigued by a poster on campus calling for students to try their hand at rowing.

Only a month later she found herself taking part in her first Buffalo Regatta, one of South Africa’s oldest sporting events, followed by the University Sports South Africa (USSA) Sprints competition.

Baptism of fire, thrown in at the deep end, call it what you will, Jara learnt quickly because she had to.

“It’s been interesting,” she said.

“I started out at the back of the boat and then moved to stroke. I was still a novice at the time and it was challenging having to adapt from the back to the front and have people rely on you.”

UFH - Rowing - Women - Asekho Jara (FSC)

Fort Hare rower Asekho Jara has come into her own as a leader, both in and out of the boat. Photo: Full Stop Communications

But, thanks to the support and trust of her teammates, she soon relished her new role.

What she did not expect was the effect it would have on her character. As she grew in confidence, she found that leadership came naturally to her.

Twenty-four months on, she is not only a revered stroke but deputy president of the UFH rowing club and treasurer for USSA rowing.

She credited a lot of her success to Fort Hare coach Lunga Mcetywa, who was always ready with the “best advice”.

“As much as you get a race where there are more experienced rowers, he encourages you to go out there and give it your all. He is a great coach.”

Jara said winning a gold medal for UFH in East London was incredibly satisfying as they had done so in a field that included a men’s team.

They drew their strength from always wanting to be better, she explained.

“We look at UP’s (University of Pretoria) women, who have won everything for the past 10 years. They are an inspiration to us as they push to be number one every year.

“It will take us time to get to that level but they push us to be better rowers.”

For her, teamwork and unity at the club were its biggest assets. She marvelled at what could be achieved by pulling together.

“Our men’s team is also doing really well, which is amazing.

“When I first arrived [at the club] there was no men’s team. But, with what they are doing now, other teams should look out.”

Fort Hare’s focus is now on preparing for the USSA Sprints in Cape Town.