A small South African sprint team will contest the first ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup in Montemor-0-Velho, Portugal this weekend as South African sprinter paddlers start the long-term process of qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The South African contingent will be made up by Chrisjan Coetzee and Esti van Tonder, both of whom performed well in the recent South African sprint championships at Shongweni Dam and Sprint Committee Chairman Craig Mustard is positive the two can produce good results.
Mustard stressed that there are a number of factors that have led to such a small contingent travelling to Portugal, however he is confident that when the World Championships in Račice in August the squad will be larger.
“This year’s team is one of the smallest I have ever been on with only Esti van Tonder and Chrisjan Coetzee attending,” Mustard mentioned.
“The biggest reason for this is that the cost of the World Cups makes it really difficult for paddlers to attend both of these World Cup events and then again later this year to travel to Europe for the world champs.
“This coupled with a number of athletes having to fulfill university commitments; it makes it difficult to leave for two weeks.
“Esti was in really brilliant form at the selections earlier this year and Chrisjan is also racing now the 500m and 200m and not just the 200m.
“Looking just at the numbers I believe the World Cup 1 will deliver our best results and we are hoping that these two seasoned athletes will be able to deliver some strong results.”
With the new Olympic cycle comes new races that will form part of the 2020 Olympic Games. Women’s C1 and C2 race will replace the men’s K2 200 and C1 200m, while the men’s K4 1000 will become a 500 metre race.
“The start of a new Olympic cycle always brings with it excitement and anticipation,” International Canoe Federation President, Jose Perurena, said.
“It’s never easy to make changes to our Olympic program, but at the ICF we are very aware that we need to adapt to the times,” he said.
“We have a proud reputation in our sport for fighting for fairness and equality, and it’s a fight that we will continue.
“The bottom line is we want to produce a product in Tokyo in 2020 that will not only thrill our existing stakeholders, but also bring new fans to the sport. We know that when people see how hard our athletes work, and how exciting our racing is, they will be impressed.”
Racing begins on Friday with the heats and then finishes on Sunday with the A Finals.
SUMMARY OF HEATS (SA TIME)
Esti van Tonder – K1 200m Friday 11:14AM
K1 500m Friday 06:05PM
Chrisjan Coetzee – K1 200m Friday 06:20PM