South African sprint ace Chrisjan Coetzee became the first South Africa man to bag a ICF Canoe World Cup medal in over a decade when he won bronze in the men’s 500m K1 final at the season-opening World Cup in Poznan, Poland this past weekend.
The man from the Western Cape has been improving year on year and this year will be the biggest of his career as he attempts to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The medal is the first in a World Cup by a South African K1 paddler since Shaun Rubenstein medalled in the Men’s 500m K1 in Szeged in 2007.
While the 500m K1 is no longer an Olympic discipline since it was dropped for the 200m K1 races, the win will be a passive confidence booster for Coetzee, having beaten a field stacked with sprint pacesetters.
Coetzee went into the event this past weekend hoping to qualify for the A Final and the 27 year-old defied his own expectations to take a bronze in some difficult conditions in Poland.
“I am so happy to win my first international medal in my ten year career,” the elated Coetzee said.
“I feel honoured to have shared the podium with two of paddling’s greats Fernando Pimenta and Tom Liebscher.”
The conditions were far from ideal for sprint paddling with some choppy waters to deal with but Coetzee was happy with how the race panned out for him.
“It was a good race for me considering I have changed my race strategy from last year in that I didn’t go out as hard as I used to.
“I went out a bit easier and then caught up towards the finish and it seemed to work for both the semi-final and the final.
“It was great racing and I enjoyed it. It’s great motivation for me going forward and I want to keep improving and training hard.”
Coetzee also raced in the 200m K1 where he finished fifth in the B Final.
Rubenstein was thrilled with the 500m podium but stressed that Coetzee’s close B final finish in the key Olympic distance was just as important.
“He is right in the qualification mix if you look at the times that he raced in the 200m K1,” said Rubenstein. “Sometimes all it takes is one moment in your career to flick that switch, and this may have been it for Chrisjan.”
Kayla de Beer and Esti van Tonder were also at the World Cup in Poland representing South Africa.
Van Tonder finished second in the C Final for the K1 500m and she and De Beer featured in the women’s K1 200m heats.
Coetzee, Van Tonder and De Beer will be joined by Louis Hattingh, Donna Hutton, Bridgitte Hartley, David Rodrigues, Nick Weeks and Dawie Gerber for the second World Cup in Duisburg, Germany this coming weekend.
Hattingh will take part in the 1000m and 500m K1 events, Hutton will take on the 500m K1 event and then join forces with Hartley in the 200m and 500m K2 events.
Coetzee and Van Tonder will add the K2 500m mixed event to their calendar and the men’s K4 of Weeks, Rodrigues, Gerber and Coetzee will race the 500m event.
ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup Duisburg, Germany 31 May-2 June 2019
Esti van Tonder – K1 200m/500m K2 500 Mixed
Chrisjan Coetzee – K1 200m/500m K2 500 Mixed
Kayla de Beer – K1 200m
Louis Hattingh – K1 1000m/500m
Donna Hutton – K1 500m K2 200m/500m
Bridgitte Hartley – K2 200m/500m
David Rodrigues/Nick Weeks/Dawie Gerber/Chrisjan Coetzee – K4 500m