Time for SA sprinters to shine at World Champs

2010-08-21 00:00

THE highlight of the year’s sprint canoe and kayaking calendar takes place this weekend as the world’s best compete at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Poznan, Poland. The strong South African team includes past Olympians, multiple World Cup medalists, as well as promising new talent, and is eager to mix it with the fastest paddlers on the planet.

Headlining the team is SA’s golden girl Bridgitte Hartley, who is to date the only South African sprinter to have medalled at the World Championships before, having claimed bronze in the K1 1 000 metres last year. Hartley will be competing in both the 1 000-metre and Olympic women’s 500-metre distance. The team also includes past Oly­mpians Jen Hodson and Shaun Rubenstein, the experienced Mike Arthur, Len Jenkins and Calvin Mokoto, as well as the much-improved Nick Stubbs. Stubbs, who is racing the K1 1 000 metres, has been described by fellow athletes as the greatest find for South Africa in years, and the guy who is going to take sprinting forward.

In the men’s racing, the pairing of Rubenstein and Arthur is hoping to improve on their already impressive World Cup results, where the duo narrowly missed out on a podium in the K2 200 metres at the Vichy World Cup against some world-class crews. Alongside the new Olympic 200-metre distance, which requires a faultless, powerful performance, the pair will also be competing in the K2 500 metres.

After missing out on the 5 000-metre gold by split seconds to Olympian Alan van Koeverden at the Szeged World Cup, Jenkins will undoubtedly be using that performance as motivation to shine again in the K1 5 000 metres, as well as in the K1 500 metres.

Greg and Ryan Louw, better known for their performances at the Fish River Canoe Marathon in their hometown of Cradock, will be hoping their dedication to sprints pays off by reaching an A final in the K2 1 000 metres, while the young K4 crew of Chrisjan Coetzee, Gavin White, PW Basson and Fouche van Tonder will hope to hold the SA K4 banner high. Another promising youngster, Stuart Waterworth, will be competing in the K1 200 metres, while his usual K2 partner Cam Schoeman recovers from a shoulder injury.

Beijing Olympic A finalist Jen Hodson will be racing the K1 200 metres, as well as the K2 500 metes with talented surf ski paddler turned sprinter Tiffany Kruger. Kruger will also race in the K1 5 000 metres on Saturday.

This regatta should give the athletes a great indication of where they are relative to their international competition ahead of the 2011 Olympic trials. CSA high-performance co-ordinator Greg van Heerden is excited to see the fruits of the high-performance programme that has been made possible by funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund. “The team is looking impressive. Coming off their respective camps, their energy levels are high, and they are relaxed and focused. It all points towards a weekend of exciting racing, an opportunity for them to give it everything they’ve got and to show the rest of the world just how good they are.”

He said: “From a high-performance perspective, the World Champs is the yardstick against which we will measure our contribution to our athletes, and it will provide us with critical information with which we can chart the way forward towards Olympic qualification.“

The World Championships will take until August 22. All 1 000-metre heats and semis were raced on Thursday, and the 500-metre heats and semis yesterday. The 1 000-metre and 5 000-metre finals and 200-metre heats will be held today, while the cut-throat 500-metre and 200-metre finals will take place tomorrow.

Inquiries and up-to-the-minute race results visit www.kayak2010.com

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