By Mark Etheridge
Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley got her 2015 season underway in solid, if not spectacular fashion at World Cup 1 canoe sprint event in Montemor-o-Velho in Portugal at the weekend.
Hartley has been hampered by a shoulder injury in the last few weeks but still managed sixth in the A final of the 500m K1 event.
Talking to Road to Rio 2016 after her race she said: ‘It’s been getting sore on and off but seemed fine this morning when I woke up.
‘I guess I must be happy with a sixth place at my first international regatta – the top three were close and the next three places were also very close.
‘The strong tail winds aren’t my favourite conditions but I think it’s a good starting point for this year,’ she concluded.
The blonde KwaZulu-Natalian went on to finish fifth in the B final of the K1 200m sprint.
She was one of six paddlers who headed to Europe – the others were: Antony Collopy, Chrisjan Coetzee, Louis Hattingh, Esti van Tonder and 2012 Olympian Tiffany Kruger.
The last two mentioned now head back to SA for the final team selection trial while the other move on to Duisberg, Germany for the second World Cup starting on Friday.
Team manager Craig Mustard told Road to Rio 2016: ‘Bridgitte, Louis, Ant and Chrisjan all spent a week at the Nelo Training Centre before the competition to do some light training, recover from the travel and to test out the new model K1. It was really successful and helped the paddlers arrive fresh and ready.’
Best of the other results was Van Tonder’s fifth place in the 1000m K1 A final while Kruger took ninth in the same race.
Of the men Hattingh got fourth in the 1000m B Final and 12th in the 500m A final. Coetzee had a second spot in the B final of the K1 200m event.
Mustard was happy with the overall form of the squad.
‘It’s really encouraging to see the younger members of the team achieving B finals in the Olympic distance and A finals in the non Olympic distance. This shows that building towards the 2020 Olympics we have a great chance to be medal contenders if we continue to progress at this rate with this squad of paddlers.
‘Looking to Rio 2016 which is very close now, Bridgitte is really in good form for this time of the year and she will only get faster as we get closer to qualifications at the World Champs in Milan in August this year and I believe we will get another Olympic medal will come the 2016 games.
‘What I believe is really important to get out of this tour and what I am looking forward to achieving at the next World Cup is consistency from the athletes with regards to results. It builds confidence that is important for a young team going into an Olympic qualification year.
‘Chrisjan had an amazing B final and finished second in his 200m k1 event. This guy needs to go to Rio as he’s a huge talent for SA paddling.’