South African sprint canoeing ace Chrisjan Coetzee produced a strong performance for Team South Africa when he finished eighth in the men’s K1 500m A-Final at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Copenhagen last week.
Coetzee was part of a small South African contingent that competed against the world’s best, but for the Western Cape paddler to make an A-Final proves how much he has improved.
He became the first South African male to qualify for an A-Final at the Sprint World Championships since Shaun Rubenstein did it in 2007.
“This weekend was really fun and I am super stoked with what I was able to achieve,” Coetzee said. “These results were the best I have ever achieved at a World Champs with my B-Final in the 200m and the A-Final for the 500m.
“It’s the first time I’ve been able to get into two finals at a World Championships.”
“I really hope that the results from this weekend will give some hope to the young sprinters back home.”
Seeing the trajectory of Coetzee’s career from his medal at an ICF Sprint World Cup event to a A-Final at the World Championships, he sees these improvements as highly motivational.
“This result is so important for me because since May it’s been quite a struggle for me to get training done but I am really happy with the results and they have been a huge encouragement for me.
“The goal for the weekend was to enjoy the racing and have fun because the season has been so long and so many athletes want a bit of a break.
“I’m pretty exhausted and looking forward to a bit of a break,” he added candidly.
The results were a cherry on the top for Coetzee who celebrated a milestone birthday during the competition.
“It was really nice being in Denmark and I really enjoyed the course. It was my first time there so it was a great experience.
“It was good to be here with the four girls and to celebrate my thirtieth birthday on Friday which was special to me.
“It was really nice to celebrate my birthday during an event like this and I’m looking forward to the next ten years of sprinting!” he commented.
Team South Africa also had a few crew board at the competition with the women’s K4 of Bridgitte Hartley, Esti Olivier, Zara Wood and Michelle Burn taking part for the first time.
Olivier and Hartley raced in their K2 and Olivier and Coetzee also teamed up for the mixed K2 racing.
For President of Canoeing South Africa Kim Pople, getting crew boats racing at world championships is what they want more of.
“We’ve said before that crew boats is the way we want to go in the future so we can get as many paddlers racing at the highest level,” Pople said. “Chrisjan has been competing at this level for a few years and we can see that he’s feeling comfortable racing against the best in the world.
“To have more paddlers racing in this high-pressure environment is the goal as we look got get as many boats as possible qualified for the next Olympic Games.”