The 2018 South African Canoe Sprint Championships came to a close this week with a number of paddlers producing some exciting times as they gear up for a busy winter overseas with eyes on the World Championships in Portugal in August.
The sharp end of the men’s and ladies fields were tightly contested with a number of paddlers proving that the discipline might be in revival mode with an eye on the Olympics in Paris in 2024.
One paddler that performed strongly over the three days of competition was the young Jean van der Westhuyzen who has qualified to represent South Africa at both the Junior and Under 23 World Championships as well as the senior World Championships.
“I paddled in the 500m, 1000m and 5000m and I will be paddling in these races at the World Champs,” Van der Westhuyzen said after he was awarded the Victor Ludorum at the national championships.
“Now I have to focus on the World Cups and the World Champs later in the year.”
It’s going to be a busy period for the youngster who went into South African sprint history when he won bronze in the Under 18 Boys 1000m at the 2017 Junior World Championships.
For Van der Westhuyzen, this could be a bitter-sweet moment as he might be swopping the South African green and gold for Australian green and gold in the near future.
“This might be the last time that I have a crack in South African colours,” he mentioned. “I have got a few world cups to get myself prepared and acclimatised to the racing conditions then it’s off to Worlds.
“I am hoping that I can put into practice everything that I learn at the World Cups when I go to the World Championships.”
Van der Westhuyzen beat Louis Hatting and Jarryd Gibson to the Victor Ludorum prize as he won all three of his K1 races and finished fourth in the 1000m K2 race with Emile Theunissen.
The ladies final standings provided an interesting set of results as sprint queen Bridgitte Hartley finished the championships with the highest amount of points despite only winning one K1 race, taking home the Victrix Ludorum.
Our Olympic bronze medallist finished third in the K1 500m and the K1 200m races but won the 5000m and won the 500m K2 race with Donna Hutton.
Esti van Tonder won the women’s 500m K1 race ahead of Donna Hutton and Hartley, while Van Tonder also finished first in the 200m K1 race ahead of Hutton and Hartley again.
Young Donna Hutton still managed to finish behind Hartley in second while Melanie van Niekerk took the bronze medal overall in the senior ladies competition.
Louis Hattingh was the strongest Under 23 paddler ahead of young Alex Masina in second and Van der Westhuyzen in third.
There were no surprises when Donna Hutton won the Under 23 ladies ahead of Morgan Ziervogel in second and Kayla de Beer in third.
In the junior sections it was Jordy Malherbe who was the strongest under 18 boy, with Jonathan Jooste finishing in second and Joshua Giddings in third. In the Junior Girls category Keegan Keiser took home the gold ahead of Jackie van der Westhuyzen in second and Caitlin Mackenzie in third.