Hartley aiming higher

Bridgitte Hartley (File)
Bridgitte Hartley (File)

Pretoria - After winning South Africa's first medal in an Olympic event at the Canoe World Sprint Championships in Moscow in August, kayaker Bridgitte Hartley believes the best is yet to come.

Hartley repeated her performance from the 2012 London Olympics by winning the bronze medal in the K-1 500m by finishing third at the world championships despite a topsy-turvey season which saw her change coaches mid-year.

Two years earlier she won South Africa's first medal at the Olympics in canoeing and again made history in Moscow.

"I went into the world championships not really highly ranked. But at the same time I had little changes in that I felt my international coach and training wasn't really working," Hartley said at a High Performance Centre of Pretoria breakfast on Wednesday.

"When I went into the world championships I was hoping for a top five and that was my goal when I started the season and when I raced the semi-final I felt my time wasn't that fast."

While Hartley qualified for the A final she was not over optimistic with her chances as she posted a slow time which earned her an outside lane.

"When I compared my semi-final with the previous three, the time wasn't that fast and I was extremely worried about the final," she said.

"I was worried that I would get beaten by the B-final girls time wise but that was good because it took off the pressure.

"I was also racing in lane nine which was the outside lane and I didn't know where I was in the race at all."

To her surprise Hartley claimed the bronze medal as she surged in the second half of the race and was only informed that she had claimed a podium spot when she was called to the medal ceremony.

Hartley said she was in the process of negotiating to be coached by Italian Guglielmo Guerrini.

Guerrini had coached his wife Josefa Idem, who at the age of 47 made it to the 2012 final and participated at eight Olympic Games which included a gold, two silvers and two bronze medals.

"The positive thing is that I can get more out of it, and if my coaching strategy is more monitored and challenged with more targets to reach throughout the season, then I can improve," Hartley said.

In the four-year Olympic cycle, the 2015 season will be the most important in the build-up to the 2016 Rio Games which is a qualifying year.

"It is an important one because you have to be top-eight to qualify for the Olympic Games at the World Championships in Italy at the end of August," she said.

"You don't have to medal but if you do it is really good, the top eight is the minimum that I will have to get.

"It is quite tough because you go from six heats and nine lanes to four semi-finals and in each you have the top two qualifying."

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