Juniors hold their own on world stage

2009-08-03 00:00

MOSCOW — South Africa’s Junior Kayaking squad wrapped up a successful weekend at the 13th Junior Sprint World Championships in Russia yesterday, with six boats racing in the B-Finals. With the world’s brightest future sprint stars taking part, the South Africans now know where they stand in world terms, and with some of the team likely to be back next year, they also know what is required to reach the A-finals.

The heats for the 1 000 m and 500 m distances took place on Friday in hot conditions amidst an air of tension. Four boats qualified for the 1 000 m semi-finals on Saturday morning, with the K2 pairing of Esti van Tonder and Kerry Segal the top performers in the 1 000 m finals that afternoon. The KZN/Gauteng pair qualified for the B-finals, where they finished in fifth place, effectively ranking them 14th in the world.

Also on Saturday afternoon, Stu MacLaren and Martin van den Bergh raced to sixth place in their K2 1 000 m B-final, while Chrisjan Coetzee’s seventh place in his semi-final saw him through to the K1 1 000 m C-final, where he excelled to take the victory. Considering this is his first international competition, it was a great achievement for the youngster.

The 500 m events all took place yesterday, with morning semi-finals seeing four of the South African boats progress to the afternoon’s B-finals. Van Tonder and Segal again achieved the best result by placing seventh in their K2 race, while Coetzee improved on his 1 000 m result by finishing eighth in the boy’s K1 500 m B-final. Coetzee’s performance may have qualified South Africa for the 2010 Youth Olympics in the African slot.

The other team boat to progress through to the 500 m B-finals was the combination of Frans Smit and Gregor Martin, where the pair had to settle for ninth spot, while the girls K4 finished off the weekend by also claiming ninth in their 500 m B-final.

Melanie van Niekerk had a difficult weekend as she failed to progress to the finals of her K1 1 000m and K1 500 m events, but considering that she still has two years at this level, there is plenty of time for improvement. The boys K4 was knocked out after Friday’s 1 000 m heat, and also failed to make the finals of the 500 m.

The team returns to SA having competed in the toughest regatta of their lives, knowing that they held their own. The experience will be vital for their progression to the senior ranks, and with the right direction from coach Attila Adrovicz, there is much to be excited about for the future.

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