London Olympic Game’s hero Bridgitte Hartley has started the crucial nine months of preparations for the Rio showcase excited about a new partnership with Brazilian coach Thiago Oliviera Borges.
The partnership came about after Oliviera Borges met with Alan Witherden, a South African official with the International Canoe Federation, at the Rio test event. Witherden then contacted the general manager of the Natal Canoe Club, Brett Austen Smith, with the suggestion that Hartley take on Oliviera Borges as a coach.
An enthused Hartley has already been able to draw up a number of comparisons to her preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games where she became the first South African to win an Olympic kayaking medal.
“This year I finished tenth at World’s and in 2011 I finished tenth at the World Championships too, and I managed to come through with a really solid year of training, got my head down, and I came third at the Olympics!” said Hartley.
She plans to travel to Brazil to familiarize herself with the local conditions that Brazil will present and getting herself as prepared as she possibly can through fine tuning her training and the preparations.
“[Travelling to Brazil] is just to understand what the environment will be like, and to work more with Thiago throughout the season, having camps in and around Brazil, just to get used to the environment.
“I don’t think it is necessary to train on the Rio course.
“There is enough time now to change a few things in my training and to challenge myself from the beginning of the season to try for another medal,” she added.
Oliviera Borges is a former paddler in both sprint and marathon, and has a Masters degree with a focus on kayaking and sprint kayaking, and did his doctorate in Australia, where he also worked at the Australian Institute of Sport, developing athletes through to elite performance.
Hartley’s new coach has a lot of faith in her and with the right guidance and preparation he feels that she is well on her way to repeating the performance of 2012.
Being able to give her a concrete regime that she can follow in the build up to the Games is important for Oliviera Borges and he feels that a slight improvement from her going into the Olympics will give her the edge that she needs to get on the podium.
“Bridgitte is a fantastic athlete. She already has most of what is needed to be there and to be on the podium.
“My idea is to work on the details and to improve those areas where she is not as strong as she could be, to make her go one or two percent faster than she is actually going now. That would put her on the podium,” he mentioned.
Although he will not be with her for the duration of the build up to the event he plans on being with her as much as he can and it will be important that they remain in constant contact throughout the vital build up.
“My idea is to be in touch with her twice or three times a week, even more, according to her availability. We are planning training camps. And I will send her all the work that must be done. But then, I will be with her as much as possible,” Oliviera Borges explained.