By Mark Etheridge
Reward for years of dedication are starting to pay off for paddler Esti van Tonder, as evidenced by her results at the first ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup of the season in Portugal at the weekend.
One of only two SA paddlers – Chrisjan Coetzee was the other – she ended eighth in her K1 500m A final.
Her time was 1min 52sec. ‘I came in eighth, with close finishes between fifth and eighth place all finishing in 1:52,’ Van Tonder said from Portugal after her racing.
‘I would have liked to make the 200 final as well, but I’m happy with how all my races went and how I raced my own plan.
‘I’ll now just take on the next World Cup in Szeged, Hungary, and try and achieve those personal goals and targets I’ve set for myself,’ said the Pretoria-based canoeist.
The good news is that Van Tonder is hungry for more after reaching her first Olympic distance A final at this level. ‘I think there are areas that I’m capable of executing better already, and that’s what I will be focusing on in Szeged. And then depending on that data, I am certain leading up to World Champs I will be able to then improve even further.
‘I’ve made A-final in the 1000m at previous World Cups and at U23 level in the 500m.’
Apart from team manager and coach Craig Mustard, Van Tonder had no team back-up this time in the form of her brother and coach Fouché, who was part of Team SA at last years Rio Paralympics.
‘Nope I’m all on my lonesome. Missing my pampering and recovery sessions that I got from SSL like at SA Champs. It definitely makes a big difference.’
Gameplan Media reports that Coetzee also performed admirably by finishing first in his 200m B Final, especially after having a horror start in his semi-final.
‘I’m happy with my end result because when everything comes together I am fast enough to compete with the top paddlers, but it’s all about avoiding any small problems at any point which I’ll work on now. I missed the start and then had to play catch-up in my semi-final and this threw my race plan.
‘I’m looking forward to the Hungarian World Cup to try and reproduce a race like my B final in Portugal,” Coetzee commented.
Team manager and coach Craig Mustard is upbeat heading into the second World Cup this weekend in Hungary. He feels that both paddlers are in a good space as they continue to improve, with the World Championships coming up in August.
‘Both athletes are really positive and excited for the next World Cup and it’s really good to see that they are achieving the goals they have set for this season. This will be essential as we build toward the world championships later this year,’ Mustard said.
The next ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup takes place in Szeged, Hungary, this coming weekend from 26-28 May.
Picture of Van Tonder courtesy of Cameron Hudson/Gameplan Media