‘Hartley will not be caught easily from behind’

2012-08-09 00:00

IF Bridgitte Hartley is among the leaders after the first 250 metres of the final of the K1 canoe race over 500 metres at the Olympic Games in London today, Women’s Day, her opponents will be in trouble.

This is the opinion of former Springbok canoeist Greyling Viljoen, who has been the 29-year-old Hartley’s sports psychologist for many years.

Hartley recorded the best time in the semi-final after the big favourite, Hungarian Danuta Kozak, on Tuesday.

“If she [Hartley] is among the front runners after 250 metres, her opponents are in trouble — big trouble,” Viljoen said yesterday.

“She will not be caught easily from behind,” the former Berg River champion said of Hartley, the world record holder over this distance with a time of 1 minute 46,90 seconds.

During his career Viljoen won several of the world’s biggest and toughest canoe races, sometimes under a pseudonym because of the sports boycott against South Africa.

“Bridgitte has a very professional approach and has prepared herself on different levels over a long period — it is not only on the physical level that she is well prepared; she has also given a lot of attention to her technique and mental and spiritual [geestelike] preparation.

“It hasn’t always been easy. There was a stage when Bridgitte worked as a waitron until two in the morning, but at 6 or 6.30 am she would be in her canoe on the Roodeplaat Dam [near Pretoria],” Viljoen said about the Tukkie who is from KwaZulu-Natal.

“What is also to her advantage is that she trained for long stretches with top canoeists in Hungary, gaining good competition practice in that way. She also rowed with the men there.

“She has spent the last little while in Austria, as Nandor [Almasi, her Hungarian coach] is also the coach of the Austrian canoeists. Bridgitte’s history shows that she does well when it counts,” said Viljoen.

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