Shongweni Dam just outside Durban will catapult itself into the international canoeing limelight next month when a brand new sprint regatta course will play host to the 2016 African Sprint Championships contested by the largest entry to the continental showpiece ever with 20 nations from around Africa being represented.
As the African Champs provides paddlers with a final opportunity to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio di Janeiro the heat will be on a number of the competitors with a seven spaces available for the global showpiece.
“The course was completed last week after about five weeks of installing the anchoring systems,” event organiser Kim Pople mentioned. “It was designed to be environmentally friendly as it allows fishermen and other users of the dam normal movement without getting caught in ropes or lanes.”
The course has been designed to allow it to be easily erected and taken down due to the popularity of Shongweni Dam as a recreational venue.
“All cables are set below the water so not to interfere with fishermen and other users o9f the facility. The course is not permanent, as it is designed along the lines of swimming pool lanes and can be rolled out for events when needed.
“All anchoring systems are concealed, and by storing the system when not in use it will prolong the lifespan of the course,” she added.
The sustainability of the course is something that was important when the money was allocated to it and being able to host events that will continue to draw competitors will be key to maintaining the relevance of the course.
“It has been built entirely to ICF specifications with regards to depth throughout the course as well as lane widths and is now capable of hosting international events in the future.
“The course comprises 13km of cabling, and over 1000 buoys/markers – no mean feat!” Pople explained.
The venue will be a hive of sprinting activity over the next month with a number of high profile events taking place on the newly established course with the African Championships being the pinnacle of the sprinting season before the European summer kicks off.
“We will be hosting both the South African national championships as well as the South African Schools Sprint Champs in the build-up to the African Champs so there will be a lot of time for us to get the course in top condition.
“The excitement is mounting for the event, and with the co-operation of Msinsi Resorts and Spirit of Adventure, the event is now in its final planning stages, as we eagerly await the arrival of the various countries.
“It has been a tough few months of organising an event of this magnitude, and we are privileged to welcome everyone to our very special hidden gem, Shongweni Dam,” an excited Pople added.
With the best in Africa expected to fight it out for the limited number of spots at the Rio di Janeiro showpiece the competition will be fierce in the handful of events identified as being Olympic qualifying events.
Three of the Canoe events have been highlighted as Olympic qualification events with the Men’s C1 200m and 1000m as well as the Men’s C2 1000m.
In the more common kayaking disciplines both the men’s and the women’s K1 200m are qualification events whilst the women’s K1 500m and the men’s K1 1000m round out the Olympic qualification races.
The African Sprint Championships take place at Shongweni Dam from 1-3 April.