It’s crunch time for South Africa’s best sprinters

2008-04-18 00:00

With the Beijing Olympics just a few short months away, the time has come to finally decide who exactly will fill the unprecedented seven Olympic berths hard earned by Shaun Rubenstein, Jen Hodson, Carol Joyce, Nicky Mocke and Michelle Eray at the World Championships last year and Bridgitte Hartley and Calvin Mokoto at the Africa Championships in January.

In order to make sure that only the best represent the country, the earners of the berths have to prove themselves by defending their places at trials in the last few months before the Olympics and this weekend is when they have to do it. Trials take place tomorrow and Sunday at Nagle Dam with the C1, K1 and Women and Boys’ 500 metres K4 on Saturday and the C2, K2 and other K4 events on Sunday. Racing is due to start at 8.20 am each day, with paddlers’ meetings at 8 am.

The Men in the Kayak category will only be racing K1s, with Shaun Rubenstein defending his place in both the 1 000 metres and 500 metres.

Challenges will come from the likes of Nic Burden, Michael Arthur and Cam Schoeman, but with three years of dominating these distances in South Africa, Rubenstein is regarded as being fairly secure in his position at the top of SA sprinting at present. Added to this is the selection requirement that any challenger must beat Rubenstein not only at this trial, but at the World Cup event at Szeged on June 6 to 8.

The same goes for challengers to Jen Hodson’s place in the 500 metres for Women. Here, however, there is a very real challenge in Bridgette Hartley, who has been performing exceptionally well in the last few months. But she will have to beat Hodson in both trials to take the 500 metres slot and in the event of the outcome not being decisive, Hodson will retain her place.

In the Women’s 500 metres K4, the other Olympic berth qualified at the World Championships in 2007, the current crew of Hodson, Eray, Mocke and Joyce are unlikely to receive any real challenge on Saturday.

In the Canadian Canoe C1 category, Calvin Makoto will be challenged by Radek Olszewski.

Apart from the Olympic Trials there will also be Senior trials in the Women’s 1 000 and 500 metres K2, and the Women’s 1 000 metres K4 for places at the Duisberg and Poznan World Cups and in the Men’s 1 000 metres and 500 m C2 for the Szeged World Cup.

A Junior team of U18 paddlers is also to be selected, this time to attend the Bochum Regatta in Germany. Here boats will be chosen, subject to standard in K1, C1, K2, C2 and K4. Bianca Beavitt and Vicky Chiazzari will be the top K1 contenders among the girls and Stuart Waterworth and Grant van der Walt, the boys’ K1s to watch. Waterworth and Ben Biggs are favourites in the boys’ K2 and Vicky Chiazzari and Kerry Malan the strongest girls’ K2.

There are U23 and U16 teams to be selected as well, all for the Bochum Regatta. The U23s will be selected at the SA Championships to be held at the same venue on April 26 to 28, while the U16s will have their trial at the 14th SA Schools Sprint Championships a week later.

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