Hartley shares her secrets

2012-12-22 00:00

SINCE winning an Olympic bronze medal in sprint canoeing, Bridgitte Hartley has been in high demand.

Her schedule has been hectic, but ultimately top athletes have to return to serious training and so she has. This past week, she made time to share some of the secrets of her success with a group of promising young female paddlers at the Natal Canoe Club in Camps Drift, Pietermaritzburg.

The club hosted a group of girls who came from far and wide, including one who made the long trip from Knysna. Also part of the camp was another London Olympian, Portugal’s Teresa Portela, who was out in South Africa to train.

Like Hartley, her long-term goal is the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016 and training in South Africa is a much better option than in Portugal at this time of the year.

“In Portugal, even in summer, the mornings and the evenings are a bit cold. Here we can wake up at five o’clock and it’s warm,” she explained.

Hartley said one of her goals for the camp was to motivate the girls by “joining them on the water and helping them with their techniques, and doing some paddling as well”.

“Hopefully, by me helping them out, it will give them some motivation to train.”

Some of the girls, like Hartley, are focused on sprint canoeing. Others prefer the longer distances of marathons, but they’re all inspired by SA’s Olympic star, who holds the unofficial world record for the fastest time ever over 500 metres.

Helping the girls to identify a goal and to focus on it was also one of Hartley’s aims during the camp. “Sometimes, when you write a goal down, you go for it more, rather than it being a random thought in your head,” she explained.

Camilla Pennefather, a pupil at Epworth, enjoyed working with the Olympic bronze medallist. “It’s nice to see how far she has gone in the sport. She is also a South African. It always seems as if it is people from overseas who are achieving, but she’s gone so far. It’s inspiring.”

Sarah Harries trained with Hartley in April, before the Olympics. “Back then, she hadn’t had all her Olympic glory,” Harries said. “To see that she is the same level-headed person is amazing. She hasn’t let it get to her head.”

So how is Hartley as a coach? “She’s not tougher than normal,” Pennefather said, “but she likes us to work to our full potential.”

The Olympic star was impressed with the talent she saw. “I think it is really good,” she said. “I didn’t have to give too much technique advice to the girls, just a few things actually, and I think with some training they’ll improve a lot.”

After the camp at the Natal Canoe Club, there will be time for some holiday relaxation for Hartley. She invited Portela to train with her after the Portuguese star — third in the B-Final at the Olympics — said she was looking for a change in her training after London 2012.

Top of the list, naturally, is to take in some of SA’s wildlife wonders; then it’s back to training with an eye on the Olympic podium place in 2016.

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