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Shaun & Co ready to go

It’s all systems go as the South African sprint kayak squad┬á wrapped up its acclimatisation camp in Halifax, Canada, and are now ready for the annual World Championships, which begin Thursday morning. The team also received the preliminary race schedule and lane draws, with a number of the South Africans placed in the top-seeded centre lanes.

Proceedings get underway with five heats of men’s 1000m K1 racing, and ace South African Shaun Rubenstein has been drawn in lane four of the fifth race of the day, where Hungarian Gabor Kucsera will be his toughest competition for the heat win. The top seven placings in each heat, plus the next best time overall, qualify for the men’s semi-final round.

The young K2 1000m partnership of Stu Waterworth and Cam Schoeman is next onto the water for the South Africans in the third K2 1000m heat, while Bridgitte Hartley gets underway just before midday in the fourth heat of the Women’s K1 1000m. The sprint queen races again in the afternoon in heat three of the Women’s K1 500m, and as South Africa’s best hope for a medal at the regatta, will be hoping for a good start to her weekend. She has set a high precedence for herself having won seven medals, including two golds, at the three World Cups earlier in the year.

The new Men’s K2 combination of Rubenstein and Mike Arthur are also in with a good shot at winning a medal, and kick off their racing in the Men’s K2 200m. The pair won a silver medal in the same distance at the Szeged World Cup in June. They also race in the K2 500 heat later on Thursday afternoon.

The South African men’s K4 boat will have a tough task of qualifying for the 1000m A-Final as there are a number of strong European crews on the water. With the hard work and all the training camps now behind them though, they’ll be hoping to find an extra gear when it counts.

South Africa’s other competitors are Len Jenkins in the Men’s K1 500m, and Greg Louw in the K1 200m. The regatta is also staging a novel new form of relay paddling, involving a team of four paddlers sprinting over the 200m distance. The South African team has some fast paddlers over this shorter distance, and will be hoping for a bonus success in this category on Sunday afternoon. The 200m heats start on Saturday afternoon with the A-Finals on Sunday morning.

All 1000m semi-finals take place on Friday morning, with the 500m semi-finals in the afternoon, while a live broadcast from CBC Television will enable the world to watch the 1000m finals on Saturday morning (from 3pm local SA time), as well as the 500m finals from the same time on Sunday.

The team has been based in Halifax since arriving in Canada on Saturday last week, and well looked after by two expatriate South Africans who have taken them sightseeing, and also invited them to a braai to watch the Tri-Nations with the other South Africans living in the area. There were mixed feelings on arrival in Canada as six paddles were missing after all the flights and connections. However this was soon offset by meeting up with Hartley again, who has been training in Hungary for the past few months, and later having their paddles returned. ÔÇ£The guys coped really well under the circumstances,ÔÇØ said team manageress Julia Thomas. ÔÇ£But now things are feeling very real, nerves are rising.ÔÇØ