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Shaun, Bridgitte shine

Shaun Rubenstein and Bridgitte Hartley cemented their places as South Africa’s top sprint paddlers at this weekend’s SA sprint championships at Nagle Dam in KwaZulu-Natal.

Consistent racing over three tough days saw Rubenstein convincingly take home the Victor Ludorum award – winning every event he entered, with KZN’s Mike Arthur in second and Ant Stott in third.

Rubenstein’s dominance was built off strong K1 performances in the 1000m, 500m and 200m races as well as the long distance 5000m race. The 200m was the tightest finish as he narrowly pipped Arthur by just 0.1sec. He then teamed up with Arthur to win all the short distance sprints, and paddled to victory in the K2 5000m with K2 World Marathon champion Ant Stott. Rubenstein also anchored a powerful K4 combination to victory in both the 500m and 200m Finals.

Saturday’s ideal conditions saw Stott pull off an inspired sprint in the showcase K1 1000m, taking second place ahead of Arthur and U21 star Grant van der Walt. Cam Schoeman was the big name missing from the K1 1000m as he and partner Stu Waterworth had decided to focus on the K2 1000m race in an attempt to secure their partnership for the World Championships.

The pair placed second in the K2 1000m and will be hoping to take their performances up a level over the coming months. Schoeman was back in his single for the Sunday K1 500m, where he took bronze on a blustery day that had to be stopped for a passing thunderstorm.

Although her K2 partner was too sick to race over the weekend, Bridgitte Hartley still did enough to edge out Jen Hodson and Carol Joyce as the top female sprinter for the year. Hartley comfortably won the K1 1000m, 500m and 5000m, but lost out to fellow Olympian Jen Hodson in the 200m A Final.

Hodson and Joyce were unstoppable in the K2 racing, taking the gold medal in all four distances. Hartley managed to team up with visiting Finnish paddler Nina Itkonen to take silver in K2 200m, while Abby Adie and Lindi-May Harmse were second in the other K2 Finals.

German youngster Steven Bredow was surprisingly dominant in the C1 racing, comfortably beating Radek Olszewski and Olympian Calvin Mokoto across all four distances.

Once again, the junior racing threw up some fantastic performances, with Gauteng’s Martin van den Bergh eventually beating KZN’s Stuart MacLaren to the Junior Victor Ludorum title.

Van den Bergh took line honours in the K1 1000m and 5000m and combined with MacLaren to win the K2 1000m and K2 5000m. Gauteng’s Frans Smit won the K1 and K2 500m races to finish third on the points table, just ahead of the Western Cape’s Chrisjan Coetzee.

The Junior girls racing was a straight shootout between the Western Cape’s Melanie van Niekerk and KZN’s Emma Horner. The two traded places in the K1 Finals throughout the weekend, and also teamed up to win the K2 1000m and 5000m events. Gauteng’s Esti van Tonder also put in some strong performances winning the K1 200m and placing on the podium in all her other races.

The strength of the Gauteng paddlers across the board saw them being awarded the provincial prize ahead of KZN, with the Western Cape in third and Eastern Cape fourth.

1.    Shaun Rubenstein GAU 107.5 points
2.    Michael Arthur KZN 76 points
3.    Ant Stott KZN 46.5 points

1.    Bridgitte Hartley GAU 84 points
2.    Jen Hodson GAU 79 points
3.    Carol Joyce KZN 69 points

1.    Martin van den Bergh GAU 87 points
2.    Stu MacLaren KZN 75 points
3.    Frans Smit GAU 65 points

1.    Melanie van Niekerk WC 91 points
2.    Emma Horner KZN 81 points
3.    Esti van Tonder GAU 69.5 points

The national squads for the teams to take part in the international World Cups, World Championships and Bochum regatta was also announced.

Men’s squad: Shaun Rubenstein, Michael Arthur, Cam Schoeman, Nick Stubbs, Greg Louw, Nic Burden, Stu Waterworth, Ant Stott, Brett Bartho, Grant van der Walt, Len Jenkins.
Women’s squad: Bridgitte Hartley, Jen Hodson, Carol Joyce.
Boy’s squad: Chrisjan Coetzee, Stu MacLaren, Martin van den Bergh, Frans Smit, Gregor Martin, Darren Berriman, Matt Shaw
Girls squad: Emma Horner, Melanie van Niekerk, Esti van Tonder, Kerry Segal, Brittany Peterson, Lindsay Davis.
U23 squad (Bochum only): Cam Schoeman, Stu Waterworth, Grant van der Walt, Gavin White, Daid Gerber, Ben Biggs
U16 squad (Bochum only): Blaine Beresford, Ruan Knoble, Adam Lapaz, Dewalt Hattingh