Our leading women’s sprint canoeist, Bridgitte Hartley, remains on course to shine at the London Olympics later this year, writes Mark Etheridge.
Hartley ended fifth in an extremely tight finish to the K1 A-Final at last weekend’s opening World Cup event in Poznan, Poland. Initially she thought she’d failed her own expectations as she crossed the line, thinking she’d finished seventh but a photo-finish placed her fifth.
“I crossed the line thinking ‘Oh, that was not the best race feeling for me’, but maybe it was because I looked across the line as I finished and thought I was seventh, my goal for the regatta was to try and finish in the top five which would be halving my finishing place of 10th from last year, but I believed I could do it!
“Then I spoke to my coach afterwards and he said I had a good finish which is always my strong point, so I know what to still work on. When I looked at the results sheet I was pleasantly surprised but also shocked at the margin which we all finished with the same minute but a different split-second ÔÇô some incredible racing. Congratulations to Henriette Engel-Hanson from Denmark, Spela Ponomarenko-Janic (Slovenia) and Nicole Rheinhardt (Germany) for taking the medal positions.”
The blonde strong woman from Richard’s Bay went on to tell Road to London 2012: “I am very happy with the result but not complacent as the racing is all too tight even in the semi-final and it could be split seconds separating me from making it through in a semi-final this weekend so I have to race hard and stay confident that I can do it.”
Hartley and Co raced six heats and four semi-finals during the competition making for some anxious and exhausted competitors.
“I’m sure the anxious feeling was felt by all who took part because the last time we all lined up against each other was in August 2011. My only race since then was a small trial back home in March which was a straight final and so that is not really racing practice when the start of a World Cup regatta has six women’s heats and my first heat consists of the first, third and fourth-placed finishers from World Championships in Szeged last year! I think maybe this situation made it better as it forced everyone to rise to the┬áoccasion┬áand to perform at the best of their abilities.
“I tried to stay as relaxed as possible and I had a good heat and semi-final on Friday. I finished third in the heat and second in my semi-final to advance to the A-final. I noticed a small change in that I had three other girls from my B-final in Szeged who also advanced to the A-final on Poznan. So the racing between the woman at the moment is extremely close and we showed this again in the final with almost everyone crossing the line split-seconds apart!”
Next up on the sprint calendar is World Cup 2 in Duisberg, Germany this weekend.
“I also enjoyed watching some racing after my events and raced the C-final 200m and came third. Then I sat and watched some exciting 200m events and some 500m races too. Its great to be in with the excitement and see which countries have made improvements since last year and which countries have race-offs between each other. There were a few countries who both took medals in a single event in Poznan which shows the depth they have in paddling ÔÇô┬áthe Germans got both gold and silver medals in the K2 500m for woman so I am sure their K4 will be tough to beat at the Olympics! The Canadians took the gold and bronze in C1 1000m but Mark Oldershaw will race for Canada in C1 1000m at the Olympics!
“That is what makes the Olympics so special ÔÇô┬áits not the biggest event in the world with numbers per event but it brings the best from each country to meet up against each other along with other aspiring smaller nations so helps them shine and race against their role models and eventually improve and get medals too.”