Junior kayaking squad in Moscow for World Champs

2009-07-31 00:00

MOSCOW — The national U18 Junior kayaking squad is gearing up for the highlight of its year at this weekend’s Junior Sprint World Championships in Moscow, Russia. The squad arrived on Sunday and have spent the week on final preparations for the regatta, which starts tomorrow and runs until Sunday.

The Junior World Championships include the 1 000 m and 500 m distances only, and South Africa has athletes entered in the K1, K2 and K4 categories. All the heats take place today, with the 1 000 m distances in the morning followed by the 500 m races in the afternoon. The winner of each heat progresses directly to the finals, while positions two to seven advance to the semi-final round. Saturday sees the 1 000 m semi-finals in the morning and the 1 000 m finals taking place in the afternoon, while the same schedule takes place on Sunday for the 500 m distance.

The squad is made up of six girls and seven boys, along with coach Atilla Adrovicz, team manager Mike Chiazzari and assistant manager Debby Bird. The athletes have had a solid build-up over their school holidays in June, where they attended a training camp at Nagle Dam alongside the senior sprint squad. Morning and afternoon sessions at the camp will have conditioned them well for the rigours of international competition, and the country will be hoping they can mix this with the necessary mental strength and translate all the hard work into A-finals qualifications or even medal performances.

Junior SA K1 1 000 m champion Martin van den Bergh has chosen to focus on the team boats for the Championships, and he will be partnered by Stu MacLaren in the K2 1 000 m and 500 m races. Chrisjan Coetzee will step up as the sole K1 competitor across both distances. The boys’ K4 has had some boat problems during the week, but is not ready to launch their attack on the regatta.

Among the girls, the Western Cape’s Melanie van Niekerk will carry the K1 hopes in both the 1 000 m and the 500 m. Still U16, van Niekerk has already established herself as the country’s premier junior female athlete, and with a further two years in the U18 age group, she will have nothing to lose this weekend. The K2 partnership of Esti van Tonder and Kerry Segal will represent the country in the K2 category, while there is also a K4 boat entered for the 500 m race, made up of Lindsey Davis, Jenna Ward, Brittany Peterson and van Niekerk.

A lengthy flight to Moscow via Egypt meant the 16-strong team were very relieved to arrive at their hotel on Sunday, and the group has spent the week sorting out their accreditation, doing final boat checks and fitting in the mandatory shopping and sightseeing trips. The hotel is a 20-minute drive from the race venue, and a bus runs every hour.

The European countries lead the way in international sprint kayaking, but South Africa has produced its fair share of talent over the years, and the World Championships will be a good marker for the sport’s future stars. With the build-up all but over, the team is now eager for proceedings to get under way.

Racing starts each day at 9 am, and results will be available online at jwch2009.kayak-canoe.ru.

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