Nine of the country’s top junior canoeists will be in international action in Germany this weekend.
The occasion is the 57th running of the famous Ruhr Regatta outside Bochum. Canoeing South Africa have sent this team to pit their talents against some of the world’s best juniors.
A large portion of the junior squad has chosen to stay at home and focus on the Junior World Championships in Moscow at the end of the month, but the Bochum competitors will all gain vital experience that should stand them in good stead for the big event.
There are a total of 14 national federations taking part in the regatta, with the German and British squads best represented, and also a number of local kayaking clubs entered. The course is set up on the picturesque 3-kilometre long Kemnader Lake, which is the newest of the six Ruhr dams and completed in 1979.
The weekend’s racing includes only the 1,000m and 500m distances, and begins Friday afternoon with the K1 and K2 1000m heats. The sole South African woman in the team, Uner-16 Western Cape star Melanie van Niekerk, will be first out on the course, and will be looking to take her good local form onto the international stage by qualifying for a Final. Van Niekerk also races the K1 500m, and has fond memories of the regatta as she won a bronze medal in this discipline last year.
The regatta is open to U16, U18 and U23 sprinters, and there are South African entrants spread across all three age groups. The specialist K2 pairing of Cam Schoeman and Stu Waterworth have taken part in the last two senior World Cups, and will be focused on making these experiences count in the U23 1,000m and 500m events. Waterworth won a silver medal in the K1 500m last year in the U18 category. The two U18 athletes, Gregor Martin and Frans Smit, have also chosen to rather focus on their K2 partnership than any of the K1 races, and the pair will be racing across both distances.
The U16 age category has the biggest South African representation, and will be spearheaded by the Western Cape’s Ryan Knobel and KwaZulu-Natal’s Blaine Beresford. The two will team up for the 1000m and 500m K2 events, and will also form half of the K4 crew, which is completed by Adam Lapaz and Dewalt Hattingh. Beresford and Hattingh will also race the K1 1000m event, while Knobel and Lapaz are entered in the K1 500m heats.
The team is accompanied by Canoeing South Africa Junior coach Attila Adrovicz and team managers Sandra van Niekerk and Craig Mustard. The 1000m heats will be held on Friday, with the 500m heats on Saturday and all Finals on Sunday.