SA canoeists sprint into Olympic contention in Kenya

2008-02-02 00:00

For the first time, the African Flatwater Championships and African Slalom Championships in Kenya last week served as continental Olympic qualifiers for both of canoeing’s Olympic disciplines.

South Africa already have four boats qualified in sprints and the success in Kenya has the potential to add to that.

The flatwater, or sprint event, was held at Masinga Dam, a large hydro-electrical dam in central Kenya. (A report of the African Slalom Championships will appear in The Witness next week).

The SA Sprint Team consisted of 12 sprinters. The Seniors and Olympic candidates were Fouche van Tonder (GA), Loveday Zondi (GA), Tiaan de Klerk (KZN), Calvin Mokoto (GA) and Bridgett Hartley (GA).

The Juniors for the African Championships only were Martin van den Bergh (GA), Joshua Wadge (GA), Sabelo Radebe (GA), Mashigoana Celi (GA), Esti van Tonder (GA) and Bianca Beavitt (WP).

All were under the watchful eye of coach Nandor Almasi and manager Phillip van Tonder.

The sprinters completely dominated the competition with a total of 42 medals, including 23 gold, 12 silver and seven bronze, winning all but three of the finals on offer. There were three Olympic qualification classes on offer and SA paddlers took all of them. Hartley qualified for the women’s K1, Van Tonder the Men’s K1 and Mokoto in the Men’s C1.

The first finals began with the 200 metres events. Here Tiaan de Klerk edged out Fouche van Tonder for an RSA first and second in the Vital race for men; Bridgett Hartley won the Vital race for women; Joshua Wadge won the boys’ Vital race and Esti van Tonder and Bianca Beavitt were first and third in the girls’ Vital race.

The boys and girls also race K1s in the 200 metres and here the girls repeated their result from the Vital race. However, in the boys’ race, Mohamed Mrabet from Tunisia beat Wadge to second place by just over a second. So strong was SA’s domination that Mrabet was the only non-South African to win any final in the entire regatta.

Next up were the 1 000 metres Finals on Saturday. Here the Men raced K1s as well as Vitals and Van Tonder won the men’s K1 and Vital race, with De Klerk third in the Vital. Kalvin Makoto won the C1 race and Hartley the Vital race for women.

In the Juniors’ races, Martin van den Bergh and Sabedo Radebe were first and second in the Vital race and Van den Bergh and Wadge second and third behind the Tunisian in the K1s for boys. Beavitt and Van Tonder were first and second in both the K1 and Vital races for girls.

On Saturday afternoon, things were very much the same in the 500 metre finals. Here the men and women raced K1s and Vitals and Van Tonder won the men’s K1 and De Klerk took the Vital race. Hartley won both the K1 and the Vital and Makoto won the C1 again. In the junior races the results were the same as the 100 metres except that Radebe was third, not second in the Vital race.

Finally, there were the K1 and C1 4 000 metres races. Here Hartley and Beavitt were first and second in the women’s race, Makoto and Celi Mashigoana took the same positions in the C1 race and De Klerk and Radebe were first and fifth in the men’s race.

Despite all this success, the Olympic qualification system is complex and with continental qualification classified as second-round qualification, all these places will be subject to approval by Sascoc and some final adjustments by the International Canoe Federation following the completion of the rest of the continental regattas around the world.

On top of this, the athletes in Kenya earned national slots, not personal ones, and the final team that goes to Beijing in August will come from further trials later in the year.

Full results are available on the CSA website at www.canoesa.org.za.

•A report and pictures from the first AFRICA SLALOM CANOE/KAYAK CHAMPIONHIPS will appear in The Witness next week.

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