South Africa’s Bridgitte Hartley is South African canoeing’s golden girl right now after victory in the showcase K1 500 metre final at the Szeged World Cup in Hungary on Sunday.
The 500m is the Olympic distance women’s event, meaning the win has positioned Hartley perfectly to challenge for a medal in the London 2012 Olympic Games. Hartley is a member of SASCOC’s recently announced Proex squad in the Road to London, 2012 campaign.
The A-Final featured the top women sprinters in the world and a host of Olympic medal winners. At the halfway mark, Beijing bronze medalist Katrin Wagner-Augustin was a nose ahead of the South African, but Hartley pushed on with her powerful kick to pip the German star by half a second on the finish line, netting her second World Cup gold medal. Beijing silver
medalist Josefa Idem secured the bronze.
The gold completed a memorable weekend for Hartley at the “home” of international sprint kayaking, where she also enjoyed success in the K1 1000m A-Final the day before.
Having won her Friday heat to bypass the semi-finals and secure the centre lane in the A-Final, she battled neck and neck with Wagner-Augustin and New Zealand┬╣s Erin Taylor to eventually win the bronze medal ┬¡ making it a hat-trick across the three World Cups. “The wind was extremely strong in the afternoon but to my advantage I really enjoy racing into a head wind. It was a bit too strong but nevertheless, the race was hard but good,” said Hartley afterwards.
Hartley also made the A-Final in the K1 200m for the first time in her international career, finishing in seventh place. Her form this year has been nothing short of spectacular, and she will be closely watched by the sprint community over the coming years.
National men┬╣s champion Shaun Rubenstein had a mixed weekend, where he was knocked out in the semi-finals of the K1 1000m. However his promising K2 partnership with Mike Arthur provided the silver lining by surpassing all expectations, except perhaps their own. The pair progressed through the heats to qualify for Sunday┬╣s A-Finals by winning the 200m semi-final and placing third in the 500m semi-final. The 200m Final was a tight race with the top seven positions separated by just over a second, but the South African crew had enough power to claim a stunning silver medal.
The Olympic distance K2 500m event later on Sunday saw them narrowly miss out on a medal, finishing fourth less than two seconds behind the winners. Considering this is the first time the two have teamed up in an international regatta, they have set a high bar, and the boat has a bright future.
The fledgling K2 partnership of Under-21 sprinters Cam Schoeman and Stu Waterworth will also be pleased with their weekend activities, which was a big improvement from the Poland World Cup two weeks prior. The two raced through to their first A-Final, finishing ninth in the K2 1000m A-Final, and also placed fifth in the 500m B-Final.
Nick Stubbs was troubled by a joint problem during the week and had to withdraw from the regatta before the start, meaning Len Jenkins replaced him in the K4 boat with Greg Louw, Nic Burden and Mike Arthur, which reached the 1000m A-Final.
The squad will now begin preparations for the annual Sprint World Championships, to be held this year in Dartmouth, Canada, from 12 to 16 August.
K1 500m A-Final
1. Bridgitte Hartley (RSA) 1:58.062
2. Katrin Wagner-Augustin (GER) 1:58.578
3. Josefa Idem (ITA) 2:00.672
K1 1000m A-Final
1. Katrin Wagner-Augustin (GER) 4:20.882
2. Erin Taylor (NZL) 4:22.118
3. Bridgitte Hartley (RSA) 4:23.570
K2 200m A-Final
1. Peter Molnar / Viktor Kadler (HUN) 00:34.964
2. Shaun Rubenstein / Mike Arthur (RSA) 00:35.024
3. Andrew Willows / Richard Dober Jr (CAN) 00:35.030
K2 500m A-Final
1. Gabor Kucsera / Zoltan Kammerer (HUN) 1:34.097
2. Jacob Norenberg / Eirik Veraas Larsen (NOR) 1:35.099
3. Martin Hollstein / Jonas Ems (GER) 1:35.165
4. Shaun Rubenstein / Mike Arthur (RSA) 1:36.017