Durban – Three of South Africa’s top flat water paddlers are readying themselves for this weekend’s start of the international season when the action from the first leg of the 2016 ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup unfolds in Duisburg, Germany from 20-22 May.
While the nation’s Canoe Sprint golden girl Bridgitte Hartley looks to continue her preparations for the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro at the German event having already qualified for the showpiece at last year’s World Championships, the season’s opener represents a challenge of its own for Esti van Tonder and Stuart Bristow.
“Preparations for the World Cups have been going well for me,” says Van Tonder.
“I changed my training focus after SA Champs in March so racing at these World Cups will give me a good indication as to whether it was a good or bad change, however judging by how training has been going I’m confident it has been for the better!
“As the World Cups in Duisburg and Czech Republic will be my only international races for 2016 I am hoping to use these events as a benchmark for my preparations leading up to 2020.
“I will use these races to see where I am on the international racing scale and then look to build from there,” she adds.
Having recently returned her focus to her K1 efforts, Van Tonder will tackle the hotly contested K1 Women 500m and 1000m event this weekend before taking on the K1 Women 500m and 200m races at next weekend’s World Cup second leg in Račice, Czech Republic.
“I’ve been out of K1 racing in senior level for the past two years so for now I am focusing on the process rather than the result.,” explains the Pretoria based athlete.
“I’m hoping to make it into the A-final for the 1000m again and to try and improve on my fifth place that I achieved in Portugal last year
“The racing in the 500m and 200m is going to be hard!
“I will be happy if I can qualify for a B-final in the 500m, despite obviously pushing for my best possible performance in both events!”
Like many others on the international racing circuit, Van Tonder holds the Duisburg facility in high regard and is relishing the start of this weekend’s racing.
“Duisburg is definitely one of the best courses to race at,” she says. “It’s a nicely sheltered course and the conditions are generally quite good so it should be another great weekend of racing.”
After the conclusion of the German event, all three of Hartley, Van Tonder and Bristow will make the journey to the Czech Republic however a tough international assignment in Duisburg still stands between them and their second project.