The biggest entry for the Canoeing South Africa Junior and Under-23 as well as senior Sprint Championships since 2016 this weekend is proof that paddling, and sprint paddling in particular, is experiencing a resurgence as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Shongweni Dam will host the sprint championships this weekend as the country’s best up-and-coming sprinters aim to qualify for the side that will go to the Junior and Under-23 Sprint World Championships in Portugal in July. The event will be a senior national sprint championship; however it is not a selection event for the world championships.
President of Canoeing South Africa Kim Pople is excited to see the next generation of paddlers showcase their talent on the national stage along with the large numbers entered into the other age categories.
“The most wonderful thing about this weekend is that we are going from Under-8s, who are our youngest, to masters — the over 65s — so it’s really exciting to have all age groups taking part,” Pople said.
“Not only is this event a selection event for the Junior World Championships but also for the Olympic Hopes Regatta so there is definitely going to be a competitive element to the three days of racing. Overall though the aim of the SA Schools Championships is to get lots of paddlers on the water having fun and testing themselves.
“Some will take home national titles but the event is about camaraderie and meeting other people.”
Canoeing has been one of the few sports that has been back competing since the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown and Pople is grateful that they can compete but urges everyone to continue to adhere to all protocol.
“We have been very lucky to be able to race during the pandemic and this weekend will be no different in terms of rules with strict protocols in place. “There won’t be any medal ceremonies but we have done something very special for paddlers so they can get the feeling of being a national champion. All is in place for a safe and exciting national championship and we are really looking forward to the three days of racing at Shongweni,” Pople added.