Having had time to reflect on what was a disappointing Rio Olympic campaign, South African canoe sprint ace Bridgitte Hartley is looking forward to getting back in the boat again ahead of a busy 2017 schedule that looms on the horizon.
Hartley surprised all, including herself, when she narrowly missed out on the A-Final in the K1 200m event however the K1 500m event was her focus and missing out on an A-Final in her flagship event was disappointing.
“There isn’t really one sentence that can sum up my Olympic Games, but I feel that things didn’t align for me in Rio,” Hartley mentioned on her return to South Africa.
“I felt that I needed everything to go my way if I was going to be successful and that, coupled with a number of challenges in the build-up and during the event, meant that I wasn’t at the top of my game, which is frustrating considering you have to wait four years for the Olympics.
“Coming home I am trying to look at the positives though – I am an Olympic medal winner and I have had a long Olympic career with Rio being my third Olympic Games.”
It has been a tough few weeks for Hartley, who now is planning her schedule for the rest of 2016 and in to 2017 with a return to river racing on the cards ahead of the imminent KwaZulu-Natal river marathon season’s commencement.
“I am at a bit of a crossroads right now, trying to weigh up my next best option.
“I have taken a bit of a break since Rio but I’ll be taking part in some local river races towards the end of the year, which will be a new challenge.
“River paddling is a unique test and one that I am looking forward to as with only a few river races under my belt, it could be quite daunting!” Hartley expressed.
The South African marathon paddling community is gearing up to host the world’s best at Camps Drift at the 2017 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships and despite a potentially busy sprint schedule, Hartley next major focus is on making the South African team for the global marathon showpiece.
“I definitely haven’t reached my sell-by-date and I will give Marathon Worlds my best shot next year!
“Despite my focus being primarily on marathon racing next year, I will still race sprints as there are many aspects of sprints that help in marathon racing.
“I am also hoping to race at the Sprint World Champs in 2017 but with the Marathon national championships being later in the year next year than normal, I am hoping that the two events do not clash,” an optimistic Hartley added.
An impressive crop of young sprint paddlers is emerging out of Hartley’s base at the Natal Canoe Club with Jean van der Westhuyzen claiming the bronze medal in the Junior Boys K1 1000m and Donna Hutton finishing seventh in the A-Final in both the Junior Girls K1 200m and K1 500m races at the recent ICF Junior and Under-23 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships.
Hutton and Hartley combined at the recent South African and African Sprint Championships with the pair taking a large majority of the spoils, with Hartley confirming a reunion of the two in 2017 is not out of the question.
“I have thought about paddling my sprint events in 2017 in a double.
“Myself and Donna have got a good relationship and we have done well at home but we need to race the best in the world to see how competitive we are.
“I think if I combine with a junior girl it will be a beneficial relationship for the both of as we can feed off each other and I can try and pass on some knowledge and experience to the next generation of South African sprinters.
“A K2 will give me a change in focus and that is exciting,” she commented expectantly.