As the South African contingent of eleven paddlers prepare for the biggest sprint regatta of the year, this year’s ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in the canoeing heartland of Hungary comes with added pressure of being a 2020 Olympic Games qualifying event when it takes place from Wednesday to Sunday this week.
For the South African athletes lining up in Olympic qualifying races, they will need little reminders that good results from Szeged in Hungary will give them direct qualification to the global showpiece in Tokyo next year.
The Olympic committee streamlined the canoe sprint events ahead of the 2020 edition and the men’s races will include two K1 events, the 200m and 1000m, two K2 events, the 200m and 1000m and one K4 event, 500m.
Seasoned sprinter Chrisjan Coetzee will lead the charge in the K1 200m, while Louis Hattingh will race in the K1 1000m. Hattingh and Jarryd Gibson will contest the K2 1000m.
The K4 of David Rodrigues, Nick Weeks, Mike Arthur and Dawie Gerber will also be hoping to put in a good performance.
Alex Masina will also be at the World Championships and he will be racing in the K1 5000m.
On the women’s side Team South Africa will have boats in all but one of the Olympic qualifying events, the K1 200m and 500m and the K2 200m and 500m races.
Esti van Tonder will be fighting it out in both the K1 200m and the K1 500m, while sprint queen Bridgitte Hartley has teamed up with the young Donna Hutton for the K2 200m and 500m and Hartley will also contest the non-Olympic K1 5000m.
“We have been in Hungary for the past week preparing for the World Championships and we were lucky to have (Hungarian coach) Nandor Almasi next to us on the boat through a few of our training sessions since we have been here,” Hartley said.
“He is definitely a mastermind when it comes to technique and putting everything in place to make us as ready as we can be for the competition and we are both extremely excited to line up on the start line representing South Africa!”
Chrisjan Coetzee made a major step in his career this season when he podiumed at the Sprint World Cup in Poznan, albeit in the K1 500m which is no longer an Olympic event.
That result would have given Coetzee a boost, reaffirming that he is making the right progress heading into the World Championships this week.
“The World Championships in Szeged is always an incredible event to be a part of,” Coetzee said. “I am really looking forward to racing again on the back of my best ever World Cup Series performance.
“That gave me a bit of a confidence boost in my training leading up to the World Champs and I have had a good pre-Worlds training camp in Bulgaria with the Great Britain team which has been hugely beneficial.
“The goal is to race my best ever K1 200m race and to get the best out of myself.”
Team South Africa – 2019 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships, Szeged Hungary
Chrisjan Coetzee – K1 200m*
Esti van Tonder – K1 200m* and K1 500m*
Louis Hattingh – K1 1000m*
Louis Hattingh and Jarryd Gibson – K2 1000m*
Bridgitte Hartley and Donna Hutton – K2 200m* and K2 500m*
David Rodrigues, Nicholas Weeks, Mike Arthur and Dawie Gerber – K4 500m*
Bridgitte Hartley – K1 5000m
Alex Masina – K1 5000m
* – denotes Olympic disciplines