Nine junior kayakers take part in the Rhur Regatta, Germany

2009-06-19 00:00

Bochum — The junior international sprint kayaking scene lights up this weekend with the 57th running of the famous Ruhr Regatta outside Bochum, Germany. Canoeing South Africa have sent a team of nine athletes to pit their talents against some of the world’s best juniors, all eager to assert their ascendancy at this early stage of their careers.

A large portion of the South African junior squad has chosen to stay at home and focus on the Junior World Championships in Moscow at the end of the month, but the Bochum competitors will gain vital experience that should stand them in good stead for the big event.

There are a total of 14 national federations taking part in the regatta, with the German and British squads best represented, and there are also a number of local kayaking clubs entered. The course is set up on the picturesque three-kilometre long Kemnader Lake, which is the youngest of the six Ruhr dams and was completed in 1979.

The weekend’s racing includes only the 1 000-metre and 500-metre distances, and begins this afternoon with the K1 and K2 1 000-metre heats. The sole South African female in the team, U16 Western Cape star Melanie van Niekerk, will be first out on the course, and she will be looking to take her good local form on to the international stage by qualifying for a final. Van Niekerk is also racing the K1 500 metres, and has fond memories of the regatta, as she won a bronze medal in the K1 500 metres last year.

The regatta is open to U16, U18 and U23 sprinters, and there are South African boys spread across all three age groups. The specialist K2 pairing of Cam Schoeman and Stu Waterworth has taken part in the last two senior World Cups, and the pair will be focused on making these experiences count in the U23 1 000-metre and 500-metre events. Waterworth won a silver medal in the K1 500 metres last year in the U18 category. The two U18 athletes, Gregor Martin and Frans Smit, have also chosen to rather focus on their K2 partnership than any of the K1 races, and the pair will be racing across both distances.

The U16 age category has the biggest South African representation, and will be spearheaded by the Western Cape’s Ryan Knobel and KwaZulu-Natal’s Blaine Beresford. The two will team up for the 1 000-metre and 500-metre K2 events, and will also form half of the K4 crew, which is completed by Adam Lapaz and Dewalt Hattingh. Beresford and Hattingh will also race the K1 1 000-metre event, while Knobel and Lapaz are entered in the K1 500-metre heats.

The team is accompanied by Canoeing South Africa junior coach Attila Adrovicz and team managers Sandra van Niekerk and Craig Mustard. The 1 000-metre heats will be held today, with the 500-metre heats tomorrow and all finals on Sunday.

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