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Hartley heads SA challenge

The highlight of the year’s sprint canoe and kayaking calendar takes place this weekend as the world’s best compete at the 2010 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Poznan, Poland. The strong South African team includes past Olympians, multiple World Cup medallists as well as promising new talent, and is eager to mix it with the fastest paddlers on the planet.

Headlining the team is SA canoeing’s golden girl Bridgitte Hartley, who is to date the only South African sprinter to have medalled at the World Championships before, having claimed bronze in the K1 1000m last year. Hartley will be competing in both the 1000m and Olympic women’s 500m distance.

The team also includes past Olympians Jen Hodson and Shaun Rubenstein, the experienced Mike Arthur, Len Jenkins and Calvin Mokoto, as well as the much-improved Nick Stubbs. Stubbs, who is racing the K1 1000m, has been described by fellow athletes as the greatest find for South Africa in years, and the guy who is going to take sprinting forward.

In the men’s racing, the powerhouse pairing of Rubenstein and Arthur is hoping to improve on their already impressive World Cup results, where the duo narrowly missed out on a podium in the K2 200m at the Vichy World Cup against some world class crews. Alongside the new Olympic 200m distance, which requires a faultless, powerful performance, the pair will also be competing in the K2 500m.

After missing out on 5000m gold by split-seconds to Olympian Alan van Koeverden at the Szeged World Cup, Len Jenkins will undoubtedly be using that performance as motivation to shine again in the K1 5000m, as well as in the K1 500m.

Greg and Ryan Louw, better known for their performances at the Fish River Canoe Marathon in their hometown of Cradock, will be hoping their dedication to sprints pays off by reaching an A-Final in the K2 1000m, while the young K4 crew of Chrisjan Coetzee, Gavin White, PW Basson and Fouche van Tonder will hope to hold the SA K4 banner high. Another promising youngster who paid his dues through the junior ranks, Stuart Waterworth, will be competing in the K1 200m while his usual K2 partner Cam Schoeman recovers from a shoulder injury back in Winterton, KZN.

Beijing Olympic A-Finalist Jen Hodson will be racing the K1 200m, as well as the K2 500m with talented surf-ski paddler turned sprinter Tiffany Kruger. Kruger will also race in the K1 5000m on Saturday.

All in all this regatta should give the athletes a great indication of where they are relative to their international competition ahead of the 2011 Olympic trials. CSA High Performance Co-ordinator Greg van Heerden is excited to see the fruits of the high performance programme that has been made possible by funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund. ÔÇ£The team is looking impressive. Coming off their respective camps, their energy levels are high, and they are relaxed and focused. It all points towards a weekend of exciting racing, an opportunity for them to give it everything they’ve got and to show the rest of the world just how good they really are.ÔÇØ

He added that ÔÇ£From a High Performance perspective, the World Champs are the yardstick against which we will measure our contribution to our athletes, and it will provide us with critical information with which we can chart the way forward towards Olympic qualification.ÔÇ£

The World Championships take place from 19-22 August. All 1000m heats and semis will be raced on Thursday, 500m heats and semis on Friday, 1000m and 5000m finals and 200m heats on Saturday while the cut-throat 500m and 200m finals will take place on Sunday.

For more information and up-to-the-minute race results visit