Privel Hinkati (1988-)

Rowing training in the single scull, Privel Hinkati, June 27, 2023
Photograph from Olympics organization (no photographer, item ID, or copyright license found)

In a sport historically defined as elitist and white, Privel Hinkati, born in Caen, France, and dual citizen of Benin, pushed past stigma and became one of only a handful of Black athletes (and the first from Benin) in history to compete in the sport at its highest level. Privel began rowing in 2003, discovering the sport while on vacation. He is a humble, charismatic oarsman who aims to be both a role model and ambassador for rowing in Benin and worldwide.

Privel made his international rowing debut in 2014 at World Rowing Cup II. At the end of the rowing season in 2015, Privel failed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Disappointed, he stated, “I put everything into succeeding and qualifying towards Rio.” Not one to dwell on setbacks, Privel set a new goal of qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and reached out to high-performance coach Reilly Dampeer at Oklahoma City Riversport to help him with technical advice and a training plan.

While many countries fund and support their athletes to train full-time, Privel trained over four hours a day while keeping up a full-time job as a software engineer. His persistence and dedication paid off when Privel won a bronze medal at the 2017 African Championships. With a 5th place finish in the 2019 African Championships, Privel punched his ticket to Tokyo in the single sculls (1x) boat class.

Privel became the first rower from Benin to qualify for the Olympics, and in the Summer of 2021, he was designated one of the joint flag-bearers along with Nafissath Radji at the opening ceremonies. He finished 27th overall in the event.

Since the Olympics, Privel has continued training and competing, notably rowing in the 2022 World Rowing Championships.