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Shaun, Bridgitte tops
- Updated: April 20, 2009
South Africa’s fastest paddlers rose to the surface over a┬átitanic weekend of sprint canoeing at the SA Sprint Trials at Nagle Dam in KwaZulu-Natal.
In perfect calm and sunny conditions, Beijing Olympians Shaun┬áRubenstein and Bridgitte Hartley were the stand-out performers, and will be┬áhoping to replicate their form on the international stage over the coming┬ámonths.
Rubenstein and Hartley have dedicated their careers to the sprint┬ádiscipline, and to the specialised training regimes that go with it. Their┬ásuperior conditioning saw them edge out some of South Africa’s most talented┬ápaddlers to win the prestigious 1,000m and 500m events.
Rubenstein eased through the heats on Saturday to claim the coveted lane four┬áfor the finals on Sunday. His showdown with 20-year-old Cam Schoeman was┬ámuch anticipated, and the racing didn’t disappoint. In the K1 1,000m final,┬áRubenstein took the gold almost three seconds ahead of Schoeman in a time of┬á3min 34.73sec, with Mike Arthur winning bronze a further two and a half seconds┬áback.
The 500m final was even tighter, with Rubenstein and Arthur neck and┬áneck until the final hundred metres, where the Gauteng paddler pulled┬áaway from Arthur to win by 0.9 of a second. Arthur finally got some reward┬áby narrowly pipping Rubenstein by just 0.01s in the 200m final, with Eastern┬áCape paddler Greg Louw racing above himself to take the final podium┬áposition.
The women’s racing looked set to be dominated by three Olympians, and┬áBridgitte Hartley, Jen Hodson and Carol Joyce proved to be much stronger┬áthan the rest of the field. Hodson and Joyce have recently focused more of┬átheir attention on river paddling though, and Hartley took advantage in all┬áthree events. Her face-off with Hodson in the showcase K1 500m final saw her┬áedge her rival by three seconds, while she convincingly won the K1 1,000m ahead┬áof Joyce, and was 0.2sec ahead of Hodson in the 200m. Hartley has shown┬ásignificant improvement over the last year in particular, which culminated┬áin a gold medal in the K1 1,000m at the Poland World Cup last year. She is
rapidly raising the country’s expectations and will be one to watch in the┬álead-up to London 2012.
One of the most encouraging aspects of the Trial was the strong junior entry┬áand high standard of racing. KZN girls Under-16 star Emma Horner took top honours┬áin the U18 1000m and 500m races, beating girls a few years older than┬áherself in the process. The top four positions were the same across both┬áevents, with Melanie van Niekerk from the Western Cape falling just short on┬áboth events. Gauteng’s Esti van Tonder and KZN’s Kerry Segal were third and┬áfourth.
The boy’s Under-18 racing threw up somewhat of a surprise in the 500m race as┬áChristian Coetzee claimed the gold in an extremely close finish, where┬áthe top four were separated by only 0.39 of a second. Martin van den Bergh┬áwon silver, although he had earlier claimed the 1,000m gold in another┬áclose race. Frans Smit was third in both Finals, with Stu MacLaren taking┬ásilver in the 1,000m.
The national team will be announced on Wednesday, with the first┬áteam assignment the Poland World Cup toward the end of May, followed by the┬áHungary World Cup in June and the Junior and Under-23 Ruhr Regatta in Bochum.
Next weekend sees the country’s top sprinters return to Nagle Dam for the SA┬áSprint Championships.
Summary of Results:
1. Shaun Rubenstein 3:34.93
2. Cam Schoeman 3:37.80
3. Mike Arthur 3:40.30
1. Bridgitte Hartley 4:02.39
2. Carol Joyce 4:08.81
3. Jen Hodson 4:09.36
U18 Boys 1,000m
1. Martin van den Bergh 3:46.83
2. Stu MacLaren 3:47.88
3. Frans Smit 3:48.05
U18 Girls 1,000m
1. Emma Horner 4:20.06
2. Melanie van Niekerk 4:23.29
3. Esti van Tonder 4:24.16
1. Shaun Rubenstein 1:38.33
2. Mike Arthur 1:39.28
3. Cam Schoeman 1:40.92
1. Bridgitte Hartley 1:50.90
2. Jen Hodson 1:53.90
3. Carol Joyce 2:02.30
U18 Boys 500m
1. Christian Coetzee 1:46.00
2. Martin van den Bergh 1:46.10
3. Frans Smit 1:46.16
U18 Girls 500m
1. Emma Horner 1:59.28
2. Melanie van Niekerk 2:00.02
3. Esti van Tonder 2:01.63
1. Mike Arthur 00:35.53
2. Shaun Rubenstein 00:35.54
3. Greg Louw 00:36.70
1. Bridgitte Hartley 00:42.73
2. Jen Hodson 00:42.98
3. Carol Joyce 00:48.16