Olympic bronze medallist in 2012, South Africa’s Bridgitte Hartley added an ICF Sprint World Championships bronze medal to her trophy cabinet in Portugal on Friday.
Hartley took third in the 1,000m K1 A final in the Portuguese town of Montemor O Velho.
She started the non-Olympic event slowly but then ground her way through the field and finished the race closing in fast on a flagging Hungarian Dora Bodonyi who took the gold, and second-placed British paddler Lizzie Broughton.
Hartley, who has been more focused on her marathon training than sprinting, was thrilled with her performance.
‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it,’ she gushed. ‘That was one of my best comeback races of all time!
‘I was coming up to the 500m mark feeling a bit doubtful. The British girl picked it up at the end and I expected her to die slightly, but she just didn’t die!
‘I kept trying and trying and then I just figured, I have nothing left but I have to race her to the line, and we took the German girl out and got on to the podium!’
‘It’s so exciting to be back on the world stage,’ she gushed.
‘It’s been a very positive world champs 2018,’ said Team SA high performance manager Craig Mustard.
‘This is important as it shows us and the athletes how much needs to be achieved over the next 12 months before Olympic qualifying in Szeged, Hungary.
‘In the individual events, our senior paddlers Bridgitte, Esti van Tonder and Chrisjan Coetzee all made it into their semi-finals and finals.
‘The new crew boats also are showing promise with the K2 200m crew of Nick Weeks and David Rodrigues standing out on the first day, just falling short of making the A final.
‘We can definitely build and improve on this for 2018, looking at the potential of our paddlers and hard work that they put into their training and racing,’ said Rodrigues.
‘It was a great learning experience for us, and we are excited to come so close to making the A final in our first world championship,’ said Weeks.
Cameron Hudson and Hamish Lovemore took their first major step into international sprinting, racing the 1,000m K2 event against some of the very best crews in the world. While they failed to advance beyond the semi-final, they raced impressively.
‘We had some nerves at the start and didn’t really know what to expect!’ said Hudson. ‘The pace of the racing was insane,’ he said.
Van Tonder showed great composure from her years as a dedicated sprinter, and took Kayla de Beer under her wing at her first world championships, pairing for a number of the K2 races.
‘I am really proud of how Kayla handled the pressure at her first senior worlds,’ said Van Tonder.
‘I look forward to working with and alongside her in the future,’ she added.
PHOTOS: Hartley lets her medal-winning moment sink in, and later on the podium, by ICF/Gameplan Media
Summary of results from the SA team
ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships 2018
Day One and Day Two
Bridgitte Hartley – third K1 1,000m A final
Esti van Tonder – 500m K1 B Final
Esti van Tonder/Kayla de Beer sixth K2 200m semi-final
Chrisjan Coetzee – fourth 500m K1 Semi-final K1 200m
David Rodrigues/Nick Weeks – fourth K2 200m semi-final
Cameron Hudson/Hamish Lovemore – ninth K2 1,000m semi-final