A champion pairing

2013-09-12 00:00

CRADOCK — The race for the women’s title at the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon was spiced up substantially with the entry of Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley, who has teamed up with former K2 champ Robyn Kime for the two-day 82 km race on September 27 and 28.

Hartley, who has jetted home from the world sprint championships, where she featured in the A final of her key 500 m K1 event, opted to race the Breede marathon last weekend with Kime as an opportunity to get in some important race time together before the Fish weekend.

Hartley took part in the Hansa Fish last year, racing in a K3 in support of the Corne Krige charity drive, but this year she has teamed up with Kime to try and clinch a premier domestic river title to add to her impressive sprint and flatwater credentials.

“With the build-up to the next Olympics, this will be my last real chance to have a go at a major local race, and I would really like to win a big race before I get into the build-up to the Rio Games. It is important to me and my career,” said Hartley.

“I had so much fun doing the race in a K3 last year. After the Breede, I am feeling really excited to do the Fish. It is also great to spend time with the other paddlers, as I tend to be away from home a lot during the year.”

Hartley, who is very much a “feel” paddler, said that combining with Kime had been easy, and she was able to adapt to her stroke and the demands of the river racing technique quickly.

“It hasn’t messed with my sprint technique at all,” said Hartley. “In fact, when I got back into my sprint training this year, after a summer doing river races in South Africa, my coach actually said that my technique was better than it usually was at that stage in the year.”

Kime won the Hansa Fish K2 title with Michéle Eray in 2010, and has been one of the most consistent elite women’s marathoners in domestic river racing. She won the silver medal at the world marathon championships in her U23 age group in 2012.

“I have taken a long break from paddling, and have been trail running, so it felt good to get back into a boat again,” said Kime, who got back into serious training a month ago.

“The Fish is one of the prime river titles, one of the majors, and it is one that we would love to win if we can.”

The proposal to paddle together came after Kime’s successful defence of her Dusi title, when Hartley mooted the idea of paddling the early part of the summer season together.

“We jumped into a boat together in Pietermaritzburg, just to see if we were comfortable. Then last weekend we did the Breede, and I am glad we did because it took us a while to settle down,” said Kime. “By the end of the second day we were completely settled in the boat.”

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