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Sprint stars plan for Poznan

By Mark Etheridge

August’s world canoe sprint championships in Poland are getting ever closer and the country’s top canoeists were at the Sports Science Institute in Cape Town recently as part of their regular fitness assessments.

Our top women’s sprinter, Bridgitte Hartley, was missing as she has already returned to her Hungarian base to finalise preparations but the rest of the country’s top sprinters were all in attendance.

Among the group were top K2 coupling Shaun Rubenstein and Mike Arthur, who have been based in Cape Town since the beginning of the year to forge the perfect combination, World Cup medallist Nick Stubbs, “veteran” Len Jenkins and top women’s paddlers Jen Hodson and up and coming youngster Tiffany Kruger.

The group were going through their paces as part of Canoeing South Africa’s continued striving for improvement on all fronts, particularly their High Performance squad and the group were put through their paces by sports scientist Alex Joiner and team physio Julia Thomas over the course of two days, including working out on computer-monitored rowing machines as well as being monitored in the gym and having their physical condition tested out meticulously. They also attended various lectures, from amongst others, Professor Tim Noakes.

Coach Marcus Melck is well qualified to explain the benefits of regular testing. He coaches five of the country’s top paddlers, any bigger a squad and he feels he won’t be able to devote enough individual attention to each canoeist.

“The testing at SSISA was a good measuring stick for us to gauge the improvements that have happened since the beginning of the year. For Shaun, Mike and me, our decision to base ourselves in Cape Town allows us to remain in daily contact with the expertise from SSISA that is proving to be invaluable in making speedy adjustments to our training that needs to strive towards continuous improvement.

“So the CSA testing camp forms an important part of this feedback for us on the athletes’ general conditioning that provides a broader picture to the weekly evaluations that we have been practicing on the water and at SSISA for the last year.”

Melck also coaches Stubbs (this is his second season with him) and most recently the Louw brothers (Greg and Ryan) had joined his squad. “They’ve been working with me since June and I have a challenge ahead to get them ready for their 1000m K@ race for which they were a surprise selection for the World Champs team.”

The spotlight falls firmly on Poznan now for August’s World Championships and Melck is quietly confident. “The build up to Poland has been relatively straight forward compared to the previous cycle which had to cater for the SA Sprint Champs, Vichy and Szeged World Cups. That created a complex pattern of training, racing and recovery which didn’t allow for a smooth build up to peak conditioning.

“In this cycle we have only got the World Championships to prepare for and while it means we don’t have the opportunity of testing ourselves against strong competition before we line up against the world’s best, it does allow us a smooth preparation period ahead of the champs.”

Also part of the squad in Cape Town were youngsters Cam Schoeman and Stu Waterworth but Schoeman played no active part in proceedings, having just undergone a shoulder operation.