SA paddlers assemble in sweltering Russia for 2014 World Champs
Moscow – Five of South Africa’s best flatwater sprint paddlers, fronted by Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte have completed their preparation and have settled into their base in Moscow for this week’s ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships from 6-10 August.
Hartley clinched a memorable third place in the women’s K1 500m in London two years ago and the blonde powerhouse will be hoping for another strong showing at this year’s World Champs as she builds towards 2016’s Games in Rio de Janeiro.
After spending some time training in Szeged, Hungary and mentoring the South African squad through their Junior & Under-23 World Champs, Hartley has spent her final week of her own Worlds build-up training in Ottensheim, Austria.
She and coach/manager Craig Mustard jetted in to Moscow on Sunday where they met the other members of the South African squad – Alisdair Glass, Anthony Collopy, Chrisjan Coetzee and para-canoeist Jono Wing.
“The team arrived on Friday and have been doing their best to get over any jetlag they may have experienced before Bridgitte and I got in two days later,” said Mustard.
Apart from settling in after their travels, the South African contingent will also need to adapt to the exceptional heat if they are to achieve their individual goals.
“It is about 35-40 degrees here around midday so it’s extremely hot and managing our paddlers’ in between their heats, semis and finals by staying out of the sun and staying as cool as possible will be important during the champs!” said Mustard.
Wing, a seventeen-year-old Hilton College pupil who has the lower part of his right leg amputated after a lawnmower accident when he was just seven, will get things underway for the team on Wednesday 6 August with his Para K1 200m heat and expected semi-final.
“Jono (Wing) posted a personal best at the recent Szeged leg of the World Cup so we are hoping he will be able to replicate that and post another PB again at these World Champs,” said Mustard.
“At this stage we are using these smaller goals to build things progressively so that come Rio, we can expect some top results.
“Jono will be up against paddlers double his age at these World Champs so we are looking to always keep Rio in the back of our minds and not set unrealistic goals for events leading up to 2016,” he added.
Thursday 7 August sees Cape paddlers Glass and Collopy with their Men K2 1000m heat and, hopefully, semi-final before Friday’s busy programme sees Hartley make her maiden appearance at the champs when she does duty in the Women K1 500m heat and semi-final as well as the Women K1 200m heat later that evening.
“Bridgitte has had a good phase of training in the build-up to Worlds so we’re confident she will be able to deal with such a busy day.
Coetzee will also be in action on Friday as he competes in the Men K1 200m heats while it is hoped that Wing’s efforts on Wednesday will be good enough to see him in action in the finals of the para competition.
Glass and Collopy then hope to ensure they qualify for Saturday’s finals while Sunday is make or break for Hartley and Coetzee as they hope to be in action in the finals of the Women K1 500m & 200m and Men K1 200m finals respectively.
“We would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Bridgitte, Alisdair, Anthony, Chrisjan and Jono as they prepare to race against the best that the world has to offer,” said Canoeing South Africa’s Head of the Sprint Committee, Neil Evans.
“The paddlers have given up and sacrificed a lot in order for them to have gotten themselves into this position and we wish them everything of the best for this year’s Worlds, we look forward to the entire team doing South Africa proud!” he added.