Team SA ready for busy international sprint programme

Bridgitte Hartley will hope to recreate the form that saw her win bronze at the 2014 Canoe Sprint World Championships

With the European Summer marking the beginning of the international canoe sprint season, the South African team to take on the world’s best has been named and will look to use a pair of ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup events in Portugal and Germany in the next few weeks to help with preparations for their assault on the Under-23 and senior World Championships later in the year.

Montemor-O-Velho, Portugal is set to play host to both the opening leg of the World Cup and the ICF Junior & Under-23 Canoe Sprint World Championships from 15-17 May and 23-26 July respectively with Duisburg, Germany the stage upon which the World Cup’s second leg action will unfold from 22-24 May.

The 2015 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships, the pinnacle of the international sprint season and a vital cog in paddlers’ 2016 Olympic qualification, then takes place in Milan, Italy from 19-23 August.

Recently appointed Chairman of Canoeing South Africa’s Sprint Committee Craig Mustard – who is also the team’s manager for the World Cup trip – will head to Europe with the team shortly and he is excited by the team’s prospects, particularly those of Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley and the up and coming Men’s 200m K2 team of Chrisjan Coetzee and Ant Collopy.

“At the moment Bridgitte (Hartley) is stronger physically than I have seen her in a long time, which is great for her,” Mustard mentioned.

“The surprise package in the build-up to this season has been Chrisjan Coetzee and Ant Collopy. They have some serious speed and I am excited about what they have to offer in the Men’s K2 200m!”

It is a watershed year for Natal Canoe Club’s Louis Hattingh who makes the step up from the junior ranks into the Under-23 and senior divisions.

Mustard believes Hattingh’s preparation will stand him in good stead when he heads to the Under-23 Sprint World Champs.

“Louis is going to be taking a really big step up this year from the junior age groups to the Under-23 and Senior categories which means that it is going to be a major stepping stone in his career as he will now be able to see where he stands internationally.

“We expect both he and Esti (Van Tonder) to be really strong at the Under-23 World Champs in July and these two World Cups are going to be vital for him ahead of Worlds,” a positive Mustard mentioned.

Van Tonder and her K2 partner Tiffany Kruger are set to pair up together in Milan and given Van Tonder’s participation in the Under-23 Worlds in July, both she and Kruger have opted to tackle only the Portuguese leg of the World Cup season.

“The first World Cup in Portugal will be the only international racing that Esti and Tiffany will be competing in together in the build-up to Milan but Esti will also have her K1 events at the Under-23 Worlds to help with her senior Worlds preparations.

“These two, along with their coach Fouche van Tonder, will only fly out to Portugal just before the event and then come back home afterwards,” Mustard said.

Mustard announced the inclusion of another para paddler in the South African team.

Graeme Paull joins Stuart Hogg and Hilton College schoolboy Jonathon Wing as the country’s top para canoe competitors.

“I am really happy to say that our para team has grown with the selection of Graeme who will compete in the Duisburg World Cup.

“This is the only World Cup that offers para paddling and Graeme will be classified in the TA category there.

While Hogg and Wing won’t be able to make the journey to the World Cups due to academic commitments, both are set to represent South Africa at this year’s World Champs, Wing for a second time in as many years.

“Jono and Stuart will keep training hard back here at home until the World Champs in Milan.

“With us now having a team of three para paddlers in the country I strongly believe we can really push hard to get one of them to the Paralympic Games in 2016,” he added hopefully.

The core of the team will head to Portugal well ahead of the opening World Cup event in Portugal with their sights set on getting in some good training in the conditions they will be racing in as well as testing out some of the latest equipment ahead of the start of a busy season.

“We are sending the guys that are going to be taking part in the first two of the three World Cups – Bridgitte, Chrisjan, Ant and Louis – and they will have a bit of time to adapt to the conditions over there, which is important.

“They will also possibly be testing the new Nelo Cinco which was recently launched and has been getting some great reviews from the paddling community,” Mustard explained.

The South African team that will be racing at this year’s Canoe Sprint World Cups are as follows:

Montemor-O-Velho, Portugal World Cup 1
1.Brigitte k1 500 and 200m
2.Louis Hattingh 1000,500,5000m K1
3.Chrisjan Coetzee 200m k1 and 200m k2
4.Antony Collopy 200m k2
5.Esti van Tonder 200m and 500m k2 and 1000m k1
6.Tiffany Kruger 200m and 500m k2 and 1000m k1
Manager: Craig Mustard

Duisburg, Germany World Cup 2
1.Brigitte k1 500 and 200m
2.Louis Hattingh 1000,500,5000m K1
3.Chrisjan Coetzee 200m k1 and 200m k2
4.Antony Collopy 200m k2
5.Graham Paull para paddler TA 200m K1
Manager: Craig Mustard