Canoeists attack final world cup regatta of the year

2009-06-06 00:00

HUNGARY’S iconic sprint canoeing course outside the town of Szeged will come alive with competition this morning as the third and final World Cup regatta of the year gets under way. Often referred to as the home of sprinting, the venue is known for its passionate supporters and carnival atmosphere, and the South African team will be hoping this translates into good results.

Off the back of multiple medals in both of the previous World Cups, Bridgitte Hartley will once again be South Africa’s best hope for podium positions. Hartley has been in excellent form in the K1 1000 m races, winning bronze in the Czech Republic and Poland.

She will also take plenty of confidence from a gold in the K1 5000 m in Racice, and bronze in the same event in Poznan, where her powerful endsprint saw her claim the final podium position. In this weekend’s regatta, however, there are no 5000 m events, and athletes will have to adjust to the shorter 200 m sprint.

With Olympic 500 m finalist Jen Hodson taking time off, SA hopes in the women’s category will also be carried by fellow Olympian Carol Joyce, who is entered in the K1 1000 m and 500 m races. Joyce had a solid return to international racing two weeks ago in Poznan, finishing ninth in the K1 5000 m.

One of the most eagerly anticipated races at the weekend will be the men’s K2 500 m race, where star sprinter Shaun Rubenstein is teaming up with fellow powerhouse Mike Arthur.

The duo have had limited training time together, but there is widespread excitement about their potential as they were individually outstanding in the national regattas.

“Mike has been following my technique really well and the boat feels very smooth,” said Rubenstein this week from the team’s training camp in Budapest.

The Szeged course holds a special place for the national champion, as it was the venue for his first World Cup medal — a bronze two years ago in the K1 500 m. Rubenstein will also be hoping for success in his more familiar K1 events.

Another team boat showing potential is that of world marathon champion Cam Schoeman and fellow U21 partner Stu Waterworth. The pair will be racing in all three distances — the K2 200 m, 500 m and 1000 m — and will be hoping to make the A-finals.

With youth on their side, the weekend will be another invaluable step in their development on the Canoeing South Africa High-performance Programme, which is being funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund.

Mike Arthur will complete the K4 boat for the 1000 m along with Greg Louw, Len Jenkins and Nick Stubbs, and among tough competition the focus for the crew will primarily be on race experience. Nic Burden will replace Arthur for the K4 200 m, and will also compete in the K1 200 m alongside Louw.

The sprint team is coming off the back of a good camp at the familiar MTK and Csepel clubs in Hungary.

The Szeged World Cup will be their final opportunity for international racing ahead of the 2009 World Championships, which are being staged from August 12 to 16 in Dartmouth, Canada.

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