Sprinters Hard at Work at nagle for World Championships

2009-05-10 00:00

THE South African kayaking squad have spent the last two weeks at a tough training camp at Nagle Dam in preparation for the Sprint World Championships in four weeks’ time.

The annual World Championships are the highlight of the international sprint season, and will be held this year in Dartmouth, Canada, in mid-August.

South Africa is planning to send over a team of nine athletes spearheaded by K1 Olympians Shaun Rubenstein and Bridgitte Hartley. “We have trained really well, with the majority of South Africa’s top paddlers here to push the pace in every session,” said Rubenstein this week. “Add the beauty of the Valley of a Thousand Hills and great food that has been catered for us and we are having a good camp.”

Rubenstein has also been working on his powerful new K2 combination with Mike Arthur, as have youngsters Cam Schoeman and Stu Waterworth, while the men’s K4 has been experimenting with different members and seating positions, and is showing plenty of promise. The sprinters have been joined by Ant Stott, who is training for September’s World Marathon Championships where he’ll be paddling a K2 with Rubenstein.

The squad has also been joined by the national Junior team, who are preparing for their Junior World Championships in Moscow at the end of July. While this has meant lots of faces and activity, the close living quarters have taken some getting used to.

Hartley, meanwhile, has been based in Hungary since the beginning of the month, working closely with her coach and a large local training group. The northern summer has been a bit warmer than she expected, and with sunset only at 9 pm she’s been enjoying the long days. “The Danube is flooding and the main streets on either side of the river are both closed as they are covered in water. However, we paddle on a section with a lock, so thanks to that the training area is fine,” Hartley wrote on her blog.

A typical day in camp sees the paddlers on the water by 8:30am for a tough hour-and-a-half water session involving interval sprints or energy-sapping time trials. A brief warm-down on the water then leads on to either a gym or running session before the group heads back for a lunchtime feast and rest. 3pm sees the start of another water session, and then dinner is served at 7pm – one can only imagine how much peak training athletes eat.

The camp has been arranged by Canoeing South Africa and sponsored by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, and the team has been able to draw on the expertise of the High Performance Centre in Pretoria. This past week has seen visits from sports psychologist Greyling Viljoen as well as biomechanical and video analysis specialist Ryan Hodierne, who will be helping to fine-tune technique. Professor Andrew McKune from the University of KwaZulu-Natal has also arrived and will be trying out some real-time monitoring technology to further improve the training sessions.

Team manager and physio Julia Thomas has literally had her hands full treating minor tweaks and massaging the athletes, although the arrival of three more physios yesterday provided some welcome relief.

High Performance co-ordinator Marcus Melck has been happy with the camp as a whole. “The venue and organisation have been great and despite the huge number of athletes there has been a great vibe throughout,” he said. “I’m very happy with how it’s gone so far, and we’ll give the athletes the weekend to rest before picking up the intensity even more for the last week.” Melck has been able to draw on input from national junior coach Attila Adrovicz and the Western Cape’s Zoltan Bako.

The squad has a week more at the camp before finalising preparation at their home bases, and then flying out to Canada on July 31. The Sprint World Championships start on Wednesday 12 August and run through to Sunday 16 August.

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