Shaun Keeling: Olympic medallist and inspiring speaker

Shaun Keeling is a man with a story to tell. It’s a story of passion, determination and pure hard work. His 16-year rowing career ended on a high note, with an Olympic silver medal coming his way at the Rio games in 2016.

“We have a great history of rowing in South Africa, although it is a minority sport with little outside funding,” he says.

Notably Rand Merchant Bank has come to the sponsorship party, which has boosted the sport’s status and achievements over the past two years. But it is still often seen as a fringe sport. South African rowers have done well on the Olympic courses, though.

“Since readmission we have won three Olympic medals: a silver at Rio 2016, a gold at London 2012, and a bronze in Athens in 2004,” says Shaun. “We also participated in two Olympic A finals where we didn’t place in the top three – one in Sydney in 2000 and one in Beijing in 2008.”

Lawrence and Shaun with their medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics

The RMB National Squad has brought back a lot more international medals, and is currently participating in the World Rowing Championships in Linz-Ottensheim, Austria – a main qualifying event for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

In his own words… “My rowing journey lasted 16 years and ended in winning a silver medal at the Rio Olympics.

“From starting rowing in 2000 at King Edward VII school (KES) to coming fifth in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 in the men’s pair event, on to the next Olympic cycle and narrowly missing out on the 2012 London Olympics – which was devastating – to deciding whether to carry on with his dream and the consequences of this… to achieving the ultimate goal of an Olympic medal.”

Shaun has packaged his journey of ups and downs into a 30-minute inspirational talk, which he shares with groups of all types and sizes. The talk touches on the character building challenges he faced over this cycle, which made it very difficult to continue rowing at international level.

With self-belief in his abilities, Shaun persevered in this physically and financially demanding sport, making him become even more determined to achieve the ultimate goal.

“After overcoming many injuries, severe financial pressure and three different partners I succeeded in winning a silver medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016.”

Shaun also talks about life after sport, the differences between the two worlds, and how you can apply the lessons learnt in sport into the working world.

“The talk covers many aspects and companies can draw their own parallels to it, but I can work with the team and adapt my talk to emphasise all the points needed in business or marketing strategy that the company is looking to get across.”


“Shaun and Lawrence presented their story on their silver at the Rio Olympics at the RMB strategy conference recently. Their story was inspiring and very much appreciated by the audience. It was well presented and highlighted their grit, determination and ability to overcome obstacles to perform and succeed against the odds at the highest level of the sport. I would wholeheartedly recommend them as motivational speakers.”

– James Formby, CEO of RMB

“I think Shaun’s talk can be summed up by something I overheard in the corridor after the presentation had finished. A person walking past my office said to a colleague, ‘That was honestly the most inspirational thing I’ve ever experienced in business.’ It left a lasting impression on so many of our people.”

– Juliet Pitman, vice-president: internal communications at Gold Fields

“I have no hesitation in recommending Shaun; his talk on his journey to becoming an Olympic medallist is entertaining and interesting, and contains valuable life lessons for us all – whether at school, university, in the office or at home. A great SA story.”

– Paolo Cavalieri, chairman of ITOO

“We have been most fortunate to have Old Boy and Olympian, Shaun Keeling, address our School community. Shaun’s address was incredibly motivating and gave a clear insight into the incredible sacrifices and dedication needed to achieve at the very highest levels.

“l would highly recommend Shaun as a speaker to your school and broader community.”

DCP Lovatt, headmaster of King Edward VII School

If you are interested in hiring Shaun, please contact him on 079 491 9027 or alternatively email him at

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