Hartley dominant at championship

2014-04-10 00:00

NATAL Canoe Club star Bridgitte Hartley underlined her credentials as South Africa’s leading sprint canoeist by dominating the South African National Championships at Nagle Dam outside Pietermaritzburg on the weekend.

Hartley emerged as the overwhelming women’s Victrix Ludorum with individual victories in the 200 m, 500 m, 1 000 m and 5 000 m events. She backed these results up with more medals in a K2, winning the 5000 m event and placing second in the 500 m and third in the 200 m events.

An unexpected highlight for Hartley was her win in the K2 5 000 m with former national rowing star Hayley Arthur, who has turned her hand to paddling. Together, the pair had to overcome more than just their opposition.

Hartley admitted they felt very unstable in their boat, and with the rudder on her marathon boat loosening itself, they opted to use the K2 of Andy Birkett and Cam Schoeman, feeling that the bigger boat would be more stable.

“We got into it and it was so unstable it was actually a bit of a nightmare off the start,” Hartley said.

It was so bad that she thought about pulling out of the race, but with Arthur having travelled from Durban to take part in it, she couldn’t bring herself to do that.

The pair decided not to use their legs in the wavy conditions as it felt as if they were pushing one another out of their boat when they did so.

“We managed to get it together for a little bit and then we turned a corner and it went all pear-shaped again,” Hartley said.

“Somehow, into the headwind, it felt a bit better. Then, going into the last lap, we pulled it together and got a good pace going into the headwind and I thought ‘cool, we’re catching another boat’. They obviously weren’t pushing too hard. They were quite comfortable in their little group.

“We almost caught them and then the turn came and I thought we were about to be thrown out again, so we should just relax.

“If we could pick it up in the last 1000 m we would, if not we would hang in where we were. In the last 1 000 m, we got our pace back together and put in a serious, long end-sprint and all of a sudden came past the other girls. I think it shocked both of us.”

While Hartley dominated the Sprint Championships, she came away from them uncertain of her form.

“I know that overseas I’m going to have to step up my game a lot more because I don’t think the times I did were fast enough for international competition, but it is still early in the season,” she said.

“Maybe the times are fine for now and within a few months and within a few races maybe I will step up the time and get a bit faster.”

Hartley will be heading to Hungary next week for two weeks of training ahead of the first Sprint World Cup in Milan at the start of May.

“I’m definitely going to be doing the 500 m in all of them [the World Cups] and then I’m going to mix and match a little bit. In the first World Cup, I’m going to compete in the 1 000 m and the 200 m, then in the second one I think I will possibly do the 200 m and the five kilometre, and in the last one I might just do the 500 m and 200 m, I’m not sure yet. The 500 m is my focus. I also like doing the 200 m to get extra starts,” she explained.

Citing the 2016 Rio Olympic Games as her long-term goal, she added, “It’s a tough year because it is not the most important year for me, or for anyone for that matter, but you want to do well. I would like to get a top-five finish consistently, if I can.”

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