While the Covid-19 pandemic continued to batter the international paddling calendar, Canoeing South Africa can reflect on the year of abnormal global calendar with satisfaction, having crowned five new world champions and managing to field athletes at nine different world championship events.
Travel proved to be the biggest obstacle to sending athletes to the events that were staged by the International Canoe Federation, and in some cases a portion of the athletes selected to represent South were able to travel to the events.
The South African team that was present at the ICF Ocean Racing World Championships in Lanzarote were the country’s best achievers this year with an unprecedented with six medals at the surfski title deciders.
Nick Notten won the senior men’s race, Michelle Burn won the senior women’s race, Uli Hart was crowned the Under 23 men’s champion while Jade Wilson won the Under 23 women’s title and Saskia Hockly and her younger sister Valmajean won gold and bronze respectively in the junior women’s race.
Team South Africa also gave a strong showing at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships with four bronze medals to show for their efforts, improving on the disappointments of China in 2019.
Saskia Hockly won bronze in the junior women’s K1 race in her first marathon world championships, Uli Hart came third in the Under 23 men’s race while Christie Mackenzie won bronze in the Under 23 women’s race and Jenna Nisbet and Sakia Hockly won the bronze in the senior women’s K2 race.
The team was unfortunate to miss out on another medal when the junior men’s crew of Josh Simpkins and Matthew Coetzer fell out at the last portage when they were in line to finish in a medal position.
From a sprints perspective, despite not qualifying for the Olympic Games South Africa’s premier sprinters Chrisjan Coetzee and Esti van Tonder showed that they are moving in the right direction.
Both finished the ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup season with podium performances when they both won silvers in their respective K1 500m races at the World Cup in Russia.
The Junior and Under 23 sprint team equipped themselves well at their World Championship and with the focus being on qualifying team sprint boats for the 2024 Olympic Games Canoeing South Africa is looking to continue building that momentum.
The South African team took part in the Stand Up Paddling World Championships and performed well as they now focus on the 2022 World Championships in September.
Reflecting on the 2021 results, President of Canoeing South Africa Kim Pople was happy with how the year went despite the obvious challenges.
“The massive disappointment for a number of our elite ocean racers, was not being able to travel to Lanzarote for the Championship event,” said Pople. “Only seven of the team managed to travel with visa issues proving to be the hurdle during Covid-19,” Pople said.
“An incredible amount of hard work went on behind the scenes to get the teams to travel, and our sincere thanks and gratitude to the team managers Janet Simpkins, Jodie Dreyer, Brandon van der Walt and Colin Simpkins for their hours of dedication to achieve this.
“As we look forward to 2022, planning has already begun, as we are not naive to think that Covid will not continue to disrupt planning and travel.”