The culmination of whirlwind fortnight of international canoeing events sees a small team of sprint paddlers representing Team South Africa at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Copenhagen starting on Thursday and running until Sunday.
With the dust having just settled on the Tokyo Olympic Games the global showcase in Denmark marks the beginning of the preparation for Paris in 2024 and beyond that to Los Angeles in 2028.
Earlier this month South African paddlers took part in the ICF Junior & Under 23 Sprint Championships and last week a contingent raced at the Olympic Hopes Regatta giving the younger generation valuable international experience.
“We are looking forward to seeing our paddlers take on the world’s best once again given that many of them haven’t tasted international competition since the start of the pandemic,” President of Canoeing South Africa Kim Pople said.
“The competition is going to be really difficult as many of the paddlers will still be in good form from the Olympic Games so if we can get in some good performances in it will be a promising sign going into the new Olympic cycle.
“Racing on the world stage is always the pinnacle for our paddlers and it’s always exciting seeing the South African colours at international competition.”
The South African contingent in Copenhagen will consist of Chrisjan Coetzee, Esti Olivier, Bridgitte Hartley, Michelle Burn and the young Zara Wood.
Thursday’s racing will see Olivier and Hartley get the South African charge underway as Olivier races in the K1 200m heats then it’s the chance of Olivier and Hartley to flex their muscles in the K2 500m heats.
Friday morning is the opportunity for Coetzee to race when he takes part in the men’s K1 200m heats and then Oliver is back on the water in the women’s K1 500m heats before Coetzee returns in the afternoon to race in the K1 500m heats.
Also in action on Friday morning is the women’s K4 when they take on their heat, with Hartley, Olivier, Burn and Wood making up the South African women’s K4 team.
The re-introduction of a crew boat for the World Championships is in-line with the long-term plan of qualifying more crew boats for the 2023 Olympic Games which will increase the number of paddlers that South Africa can send to the Games.
Hartley then has to wait until the second to last race of the competition for her K1 event when she races in the women’s 5000m event on Sunday afternoon.
Taking on the long distance race at the event is preparation for Hartley’s charge at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Romania which will start just a week and a half after the Sprint World Championships finish.