Mammoth year for sprint queen Hartley

As the 2012 Olympic Games fade into the back of our memories, South African canoe sprint ace Bridgitte Hartley will have another shot at silverware in August this year when she takes on the world’s best at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Despite missing out on a 500m K1 A Final, her favoured event, at the 2015 ICF Sprint World Championships, Hartley was offered a spot at the South American showpiece via the ICF paddler allocation allotment, giving her another shot at replicating or even improving on her 2012 London bronze medal effort.

As busy as an Olympic year is for the sprint sensation, Hartley is still in the initial stages of her preparation.

With the sprint season in Europe only set to start in May, Hartley has enjoyed the opportunity to prepare herself physically in South Africa recently.

“I am doing a big block of base training at the moment,” the 33-year old star said. “I have been working at with Nikki Irvine at EAP in Pietermaritzburg recently and have been feeling really good.”

“I think that I am stronger now than I was this time last year.”

With the South African Sprint Championships looming in March, Hartley is set to jet off to the United States in February where she will link up with former South African paddling star Michelle Eray who is in charge of the USA Sprint team.

“A month long camp in the US will be good for me as I was alone during my base training last season and being with other paddlers, pushing each other, always helps.”

Despite the travel, which Hartley has become accustomed to over the years, she feels that she has got a steadier schedule in the build up to the Olympics this year than she had previously.

“I have travelled a lot more in previous seasons and I think the big difference is that I will be based in certain centres for longer this year than in the past, which will give me time to adjust.

“There will be big blocks that I am overseas for, especially before and during the World Cup season where I will join one of the Slovenian girls in April, and then I will take part in the World Cups after that,” she stressed.

Despite her lack of experience in South American conditions, Hartley believes that she has an understanding of what to expect, along with a hope that she will be able to get on the water a few times beforehand.

“Apparently the water is a bit salty, which is a bit different, however I have been training in Plettenberg Bay over the Christmas break and I am originally from Richards Bay so I understand what that feels like.

“I have also heard that there will probably be a bit of a side wind blowing so I have been given some information about what we will have to encounter and in my mind I am ready for that.

“We are not sure on when we will be able to get on the water but I have been told that the lake is wide so I hope we have a chance to get on the edges to get a feel of what the conditions will be like,” added Hartley.

Despite there being an Olympic Games on the horizon, Hartley’s focus will have to be dialled in at the World Cup events beforehand as they provide her with the ideal litmus test to gauge just how her form is developing.

“For me consistency is going to be the key during the World Cups,” she mentioned. “If I am making the A Finals then I will be happy because that means that I would have been in the top eight at each event.”

“If I continue that form going into the Olympics it means that I will be in the A Final and have an equal shot at a medal!”