Nation’s best show off at SA Sprint Champs

2016-03-22 06:00
South African sprint sweetheart Bridgitte Hartley left nothing to chance as she completed her Rio di Janeiro Olympic qualification phase with another national championship title in the 500m women’s K1 at the South African Sprint Championships at Shongweni Dam over the past weekend. Photo: supplied

South African sprint sweetheart Bridgitte Hartley left nothing to chance as she completed her Rio di Janeiro Olympic qualification phase with another national championship title in the 500m women’s K1 at the South African Sprint Championships at Shongweni Dam over the past weekend. Photo: supplied

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OLYMPIC star Bridgitte Hartley ticked another vital box in her preparations for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro at the hugely successful South African Sprint Championships held at Shongweni dam outside Hillcrest last weekend.

Event organiser Kim Pople was happy with the way in which the whole championships went off.

“We were up in numbers from juniors right up to seniors this year,” Pople said. “One real positive about the event was that we had five para-paddlers taking part in their own categories.

“The 200m Senior and under 23 K1 races had to be decided via a camera because they were so close.”

The course had been given a positive review by Bridgitte Hartley following the KZN Championships and her sentiments seemed to be echoed following the national showpiece.

“We had positive feedback from the paddlers about the course and the way the event was run.

“The early morning times were fantastic before the prevailing head wind slowed times slightly in the final events,” a satisfied Pople added.

Hartley had to win her 500m A final in order to comprehensively secure her spot in the South African team to Rio. She did not leave anything up to chance in her 500m final as she won the race by just under three seconds from Esti van Tonder in second and Kayla de Beer in third.

The 200m women’s final was a much closer affair as Hartley was pushed all the way to the end by Van Tonder however she eventually prevailed by under half a second.

The overall Victrix Ludorum was a one person race as Hartley out-classed the rest of the women’s field whilst Western Cape’s Bianca Beavitt claimed the overall silver medal with under 23 paddler Milnerton star Melanie van Niekerk finishing in third just two and a half points ahead of KZN marathon talent Jenna Ward.

The racing was red-hot throughout with a number of the categories being fiercely contested as the senior Victor Ludorum prize was fought out between Under 23 Sprint ace Louis Hattingh and Western Province sprint star Ant Collopy.

The pair battled it out over the K1 events and despite Hattingh coming up triumphs in the 1000m and the 500m he battled in the 200m where he finished eighth which opened the door slightly for Collopy.

The Peninsula paddler could not take advantage of the slip up from Hattingh as the K2 races were dominated by Hattingh and partner Stuart Maclaren with Collopy and Ben Biggs finishing in third in the 1000m and 500m K2 which handed Hattingh the title by five points.

The junior racing was far less enthralling as Michaelhouse’s Jean van der Westhuyzen and Donna Tutton from Epworth dominated their respective categories as Van der Westhuyzen nearly producing a clean sweep of victories – he missed out on victory in the 200m K1 and the 200m K2.

Despite not competing in the Junior K2 races Donna Hutton trounced the rest of the Junior Girls fields in the K1 events as she racked up a maximum 80 points in the four K1 events whilst she made the step up to the seniors to race the K2 events with Bridgitte Hartley.

Hutton was equally adept in the senior division where she and Hartley won two of the three K2 races, missing out in the 1000m event where they finished in second behind Bianca Beavitt and Melanie van Niekerk.

The top South African paddlers can now look forward to testing themselves against the cream of the continents sprinters when the African Sprint Championships take place at the same venue from 1 to 3 April, where the six continental berth for the Rio showcase will be decided.

The African Sprint Championships take place at Shongweni Dam from 1-3 April. For more information go to canoesa.org.za.

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