Beijing: All eyes on Hodson and Hartley showdown

2008-06-06 00:00

Szeged — South Africa’s sprint canoeing challenge at the Beijing Olympic Games in Beijing in August will be shaped this weekend in the charged atmosphere of the canoeing mecca of Szeged in Hungary where the season’s first World Cup regatta is serving as the final selection event.

All eyes will be on the riveting showdown between the two women vying for the solitary berth in the blue ribbon 500 m K1 event, Jen Hodson and Bridgette Hartley.

Hartley threw a cat amongst the pigeons by edging out Hodson in a ferocious first trial at Nagle Dam outside Pietermaritzburg earlier this year, after two seasons in which Hodson has enjoyed a meteoric rise to international stardom, and was widely regarded as a certainty to race the women’s 500 m K1 race in green and gold in Beijing.

In terms of the national selection criteria set by Canoeing South Africa, the 500 m K1 berth will be decided by the performance of the duo in the season-opening World Cup at Szeged.

Both girls started the regatta strongly on Thursday, and cruised into the semi-finals, with Hartley posting the faster time, a one minute 50 second effort that placed her a very close second to the Hungarian multiple Olympic medallist Katalin Kovacs.

In her opening heat, Hodson also finished second, crossing the line in one minute 51 seconds.

The South Africans posted the fifth and sixth fastest times in the heats, which will earn them preferential positions or the semi-finals.

However, the pair seem unlikely to race side by side as the national selectors would prefer to enable them to make a clear cut decision about which paddler will take the sole berth available at the Beijing showpiece.

First day’s results

Women’s 500m K1

Heat 1: 1 Katalin Kovacs 1:50.3; 2 Bridgitte Hartley 1:50.5. Heat 3: 1 Sophia Paldanius 1:50.4; 2 Jen Hodson 1:51.9

Men’s 100m K1

1 Adam van Koeverden 3:31.783; 2 Max Hoff 3:33.043; 3 Shaun Rubenstein 3:36.397

Men’s 500m K1

Heat 3: 1 MareTwardowski 1:39.6; 2 Alvydas Duonela 1:40.0; 3 Shaun Rubenstein 1:40.9

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