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Coetzee making inroads ahead of worlds

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As the South African canoe sprint team gear up for the ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Portugal next month, the performances by Chrisjan Coetzee at the recent World Cup events are a positive sign.

Even more so with the Olympic Games coming up in Tokyo, Japan in 2020.

The early season World Cup events in Szeged, Hungary and Duisburg, Germany were great performance gauges for Coetzee as he prepares for the World Championships and the 26-year-old managed to surprise himself with two A Finals.

‘I was going into the World Cups with my focus on the 200m sprint because that was what I was training for,’ the Western Cape paddler said.

‘But I decided that I’d do the 500m as well because I was there and it was going to be good for me to paddle as much as I could.

‘My 500m heat in Szeged went really well and I finished second and then I followed that up by winning my semi-final!’

This was a first A Final for Coetzee and despite having his 200m heats and C Final in the morning, he went out as hard as he could in the 500m final.

‘I was really happy to have got to the final but I think I was a bit over excited and went too hard and blew halfway through. I ended last but I was so happy to get into an A Final.’

Coetzee’s next weekend followed a similar pattern as he continued his great form in the 500m K1 where he once again qualified into the semi-final second behind Josef Dostal, who is the current K1 500m world champion.

‘After my heat, I had another strong race in the semi-final where I won again, although this time it was a less convincing win.

‘The most important thing was that I qualified for the A Final,’ he added.

Heading into the final, Coetzee knew that he was going to have to approach the race differently to his first taste of A Final action.

‘In the final in Germany, I changed my tactics and didn’t go as hard at the start as I had done the week before.

‘It worked out for me as I finished in seventh place, so I’m getting better and have to make sure that I am consistently getting into A Finals.

‘I can go a lot faster if you look at my heat and semi-finals times but I am still quite a way off the pace of the top guys.

‘There is a lot of work for me to do between now and the World Championships but I’m hoping for an A Final in Portugal next month,’ a hopeful Coetzee mentioned.

Coetzee will also be focusing on a team boat as he, Mike Arthur, Nick Weeks and David Rodrigues take on the K4 challenge.

‘We’ll have a short K4 camp before we head to World Champs but this is mainly just an experiment because we would like to qualify as a K4 for the Olympic Games,’ he explained.

This past weekend saw a sprint-off between Esti van Tonder (pictured left) and Donna Hutton (right) for a spot on the national team for the senior world championships in the 200m and 500m K1 sprint.

The two races were won by the more experienced Van Tonder, who will take her place in the national team for the showpiece in Portugal while Hutton’s focus now shifts to the ICF Junior & U23 Canoe Sprint World Championships at the end of this month.

Photos: Coetzee (main picture) and Van Tonder/Hutton, by Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media


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