Hartley has high hopes

2015-02-13 00:00

FOR Natal Canoe Club sprint star Bridgitte Hartley there was one clear highlight in 2014: “Winning a bronze medal at the World Championships,” she said without hesitation.

That result confirmed that the 2012 London Olympic Games bronze medallist remains among the world’s elite sprinters.

It was a big result given that she had endured some struggles the previous year after a setback from chicken pox.

“In 2013, chicken pox set my body back. It wasn’t as if I had to do rehab to get stronger again. It was a matter of starting training again from scratch and building on that. Anyway, 2013 was not meant to be a big year for me. That was a blessing in disguise,” Hartley said.

2014 was a year of big changes for Hartley, especially in the gym where she began to work with biokineticist Gareth Ford of EAP.

“It was quite hard in the beginning because I had to try to trust him, while I was still hesitant and still wanting to do some of my old gym programme and I stressed out when the new gym work made me so sore that I couldn’t paddle,” Hartley said. “It was quite challenging, but I think it’s good that I have been able to talk to him and say that there are things that I must keep and I mustn’t drop, because that would be reinventing the wheel.

“I have definitely seen some changes already in comparing my base gym phase at this time of the year to last year. I am much stronger than I have ever been, and even more than in the year before the [2012] Olympics.”

Her medal-winning performance in Moscow at the World Championships was not just about a physical boost, Hartley explained, it ­also gave her a valuable mental boost.

“I think the results in 2014 gave me some confidence that some of the changes I have made in the gym have actually paid off. I have always been doubtful about changing things in case they don’t work,” she said.

“But I have learnt from my body over the years and decided that maybe a change in the gym to make my whole body stronger, working all the muscle groups, instead of focusing on a few, would help me, and I think it did.”

The early part of the year is about base training, putting in the hard yards early, which then allows Hartley to focus her efforts on the big events that fall in the middle of the year.

“The major goal is to be in the top eight at the World Champs in August,” she said. “The World Cups are just practice and whatever ­happens there happens. I still doubt myself, but I definitely have a track record of producing the biggest results when it counts. Somehow I manage to get it right. I don’t know how, but I do.”

The most important time of the year for the bubbly blonde is from May to August, “because I don’t get to race the European Championships or any major selection races where somebody is hunting me down,” Hartley explained.

“For me, then, I take it upon myself to get myself sharp for the World Champs and I often join international training groups to be able to do that.”

Hartley’s more immediate goal is to perform well at the South African Sprint Championships which take place in Gauteng on Easter weekend. She is hoping to use the event to judge her progress towards Olympic qualification and to assess how her training programme is going.

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