Building on their strong performances in 2016, the six athletes in the South African Junior and Under 23 Canoe Sprint team are in Romania preparing for the ICF Junior & Under 23 Canoe Sprint World Championships that kick off on Thursday until Sunday.
The South African team at the 2016 world championships managed to bag one medal but qualified for four finals with Jean van der Westhuyzen winning the bronze in the Under 18 Boys 1000m.
The other finalists were Louis Hattingh, who made it to the Under 23 Men 1000m final and Donna Hutton who qualified for two finals, the Under 18 girls 200m and 500m finals.
With the absence of Van der Westhuyzen, who is focusing on marathon paddling with the world championships next month, and Hattingh who has been ruled him out of paddling for the remainder of the year following an unfortunate wood working accident.
“It’s terrible about Louis (Hattingh) and it’s a huge lose to the team but the current standard of our other athletes such as Jarryd Gibson, Stuart Bristow, David Rodrigues and Donna Hutton is extremely high and I am positive they will step up to the plate and deliver some brilliant results,” Mustard said from their base in Pitesti.
“In a first for the team Donna Hutton has been elected as the new team captain.
“Donna has had brilliant international performances since 2014 so this is the reason she is the best option as the new team captain after Louis could not make this year’s tour.”
Despite the lack of two of their top performers in 2016, Mustard understands that this year’s championships can be seen as building phase with some strong first-time paddlers getting a shot at competing at the highest level.
“Going into this year we knew it was going to be a transition year for this team with a lot of the members moving up from u18s into u23s. Also this year, Under 18 stars Alex Masina and Seth Joubert will be making their international debuts.”
‘It’s becoming a constant trend that the juniors each year are improving and with the likes of Alex Masina and Seth Joubert making the debut appearance is really exciting and looking towards 2020 on how they will use this valuable experience to add to their long term goals.”
The young Alex Masina recently moved down to Pietermaritzburg to further his training and racing career and feels that the move has helped him achieve his dream of competing internationally.
“It’s been my goal forever to race internationally and I promised myself that one year I would do it’s so it’s unbelievable I did it in my last year as a junior,” Masina mentioned.
“All my coaches have put a lot of work into me since moving to Pietermaritzburg and the HP Training team have helped me achieve this.
“I am really grateful for everyone’s hard work and support they have shown and I hope I don’t let them down,” he added.
South African Junior and Under 23 Canoe Sprint World Championships Team:
David Rodrigues u23 K1 200m, Seth Joubert u18 K1 200m, Alex Masina u18 K1 500 and 1000m, Stuart Bristow u23 K1 500m and K2 1000m, Jarryd Gibson u23 k2 1000m, Donna Hutton u23 K1 500/200m.