By Mark Etheridge
London Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley lines up for her first sprint World Cup of the year in Portugal this weekend with lingering injury doubts hang in over her head.
The speedy canoeist goes into World Cup 1 in Montemor-o-Velho on the back of some great training but with a niggling shoulder injury worry.
She picked up five gold and three silver medals at the recent South African sprint championships in Pretoria but the aftermath was soon evident.
‘I felt like this year’s training has been great, but over the last month I have had some repeated problems with my left shoulder (the lavator scapulae, a muscle leading up into my neck) causing numbness and pain,’ she told Road to Rio 2016 on Thursday.
‘So I don’t have any expectations yet at this World Cup. It’s my first international race of the season so it’s just to judge the level of the competition and try have a good weekend of racing for me.
‘I had some problems in December with really tight nerves so I didn’t do many exercises which lift my arms above my head, had lots of rehab and it didn’t give me trouble since,’ says the KwaZulu-Natal canoeist.
‘I only managed to get one physiotherapy session before I flew to Europe so I haven’t really had a proper diagnosis yet.’
With there not being sufficient funding to have a travelling physio with the team the timing couldn’t have been worse as the small SA team headed off.
‘It got worse just before I left SA and has been niggling for the last five days on and off since I have been in Portugal.’
Good news is that the race venue would appear to have a massage room so Hartley will investigate further on Thursday.
Whether it will affect her performance badly as next year’s Olympics in Rio get ever closer she says: It’s hard to say how bad it is as I have had some good sessions since I have arrived and some very bad ones. It’s giving me tension headaches which I have never had in my life.
‘So on race day I could be perfect or I could be bad. I can’t predict it, every time I do a hard session it flares up so I ease off and then it’s better. I am sure I will still push myself as hard as possible in the race, I just have to take it as it comes day by day.
‘Otherwise it’s been an enjoyable build up at my club at NCC in Pietermaritzburg. I felt like I was improving a lot until we went up to Pretoria for SA champs then I started to have a few problems afterwards.’
Hartley goes off in the third of three heats in the 500-metre K1 event on Friday. The winners of each heat go directly to the final, positions two to seven in the heats go into a semi-final.