Paris, France — After finishing the World Sprint Canoe Championships as South Africa’s most successful competitor, Esti Olivier continues her journey to the Paris Olympics this week.
Olivier reached the B Final in the Olympic distance 500m and the A Final in the non-Olympic 200m at Duisburg in the World Champs last week, and will this week be testing the Paris 2024 venue at a World Cup event at the Olympic venue in the longer distance.
For the talented 30-year-old, the Olympic venue test event starting on Thursday is the next step in a journey she is hoping ends with a place in the Olympic final of the 500m K1 race on August 10 next year.
“I am feeling confident after World Champs last week,” said Olivier on Wednesday after she had returned from training on the Olympic course. “The standard of racing was ridiculously high and there was no difference really between the A Final times and the B Final times.
“It all comes down to the luck of the draw in the semi-final and who can keep everything under control in a high-pressure race. So, I am feeling confident that I am in the mix and part of the competitive top athletes in the world.
“I am happy with my races at the World Champs. Obviously there are always things that you can can take from it and improve on, so I certainly took a lot from my B final in the 500m. But I am looking to implement that bold and brave racing approach to really see where my limits are and where I need to work and improve.
“I do not really get the opportunity to race at this level other than at these international events, so I have to use every race now to see what my base season must focus on.”
Looking forward to this week’s World Cup race, Olivier is cautiously optimistic.
“I am hoping to achieve good results in Paris and would love to reach an A final and up my game from World Champs, but if I can just walk away with three solid races in the heats, semis and final, then I will be stoked.
“As for finals and podiums, it is a bit of the luck of the draw when the margins are so close, but I think I have the ability to make a final and maybe even the podium.
“It is really cool to see the venue and it is quite special to think that I am now racing and training on the next Olympic course.
“My first impressions are that it is a big open course and so if the wind comes up — like it did today — then it will be a bit bumpy. The predictions are for a bit of wind this week, so we will have an idea of what Mother Nature can throw at us and get mentally prepared for that.
“Looking to the future, I would like to qualify and get that quota place in the pocket. It was disappointing to miss out by such a close margin at the World Champs in Duisburg, but the focus remains the same and so now I will just have to focus on November when I go to Nigeria for African Champs, and try and qualify through the continental route. From there it is back to base season and try and build up for Olympics.”
The heats for the 500m women’s K1 are on Thursday with the semis on Friday and the finals on Saturday.