Sprint paddler bound for Olympics fears for SA’s unsung heroes

2012-04-09 00:00

WITH just four months before the London 2012 Olympic Games begin, Bridgitte Hartley (28) said it hasn’t really sunk in that she will be representing South Africa.

The sprint paddler from Richards Bay will be competing in the K1 500 m at the Olympic Games.

“I know I’m going, but it doesn’t feel part of my world as yet … There’s isn’t much hype in South Africa … I need something else like arriving at the venue to really make it sink in. To get those little butterfly feelings.”

And it hasn’t helped that she read in Sports Illustrated that half of South Africans will be watching rugby and cricket during the Olympics.

“It’s quite sad because we really have some good athletes and I think South Africans have a really good chance of getting the medals. If we don’t make people aware it will easily pass,” she added.

However, this hasn’t stopped Hartley from training hard. In between that she coaches 10 girls between the ages of 14 and 17.

“I train no less than three hours a day.”

Speaking to The Witness, Hartley said she had spent many months training abroad with international paddlers.

“I do this to get better. I swim, gym and run. I also participate in cross- country skiing to put my body to a test out of the boat.”

Hartley was the first African to win a medal at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in 2009.

Last year during the championships, she broke the unofficial world record.

Hartley said while she was quite sporty growing up, she was never the best at any school sport.

“I was never great at any sport in school … I’d never get selected … I’d watch the Olympic Games and think it was amazing, but never thought I’d get there.”

However, sport helped boost her self-confidence. At age 13 she star­ted surfing and it was only at high school that her father introduced her to river marathon kayaking.

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