SA's double silver in Szeged | SASCOC - SASCOC

SA’s double silver in Szeged

Racing at one of sprint kayaking’s iconic venues in Szeged, Hungary at the weekend, the 19-strong South African sprint squad claimed two silver medals, courtesy of Bridgitte Hartley and Len Jenkins, and at the same time gained a treasure trove of invaluable racing experience.

Hartley, South Africa’s top woman Olympic hopeful, once again proved her pedigree against some of the world’s top female paddlers in the 1000m K1 distance. Hartley was locked in battle with three other boats at the start of Saturday’s A-Final, but her signature kick in the last 250m allowed her to push ahead and claim the silver medal for South Africa. It was the perfect start for the team, but sadly no one else could push on to such high honours over the other short distance races.

Hartley also qualified for the K1 500m A-Final, where she placed sixth in a star-studded line-up of Olympic and World champions, despite one of her best starts ever in the event. The short 200m sprint was even tougher on the national champion, as she only managed a second place in the C-Final.

The country’s other female 2012 Olympic hopeful, Jen Hodson, was unfortunately sick over the week leading up to the regatta, but still chose to compete and make the most of the opportunity to get back to top international standard after two seasons out. Normally a strong contender over the 200m distance, Hodson’s raw talent took her to third place in her semi-final, narrowly missing the A-final.

In the men’s racing, the dynamite pairing of Shaun Rubenstein and Mike Arthur were hoping to continue the form they showed last year in Szeged, where they claimed a silver medal. However this year they had to settle for seventh position in the K2 500m. The pair also lacked their normal powerful start in the K2 200m, and placed fourth in their semi-final, relegating them to the B-final which they went on to win comfortably. In the same race, brothers Ryan and Greg Louw placed a credible 6th overall.

Rising K1 star Nick Stubbs raced into first place in the 500m B-final while the young combination of Cam Schoeman and Stu Waterworth claimed a respectable fourth in the 500m K2 B-Final.

After a disappointing performance in France, the multi-talented Jenkins raced a spectacular 5000m marathon race, narrowly missing the gold medal to world champion and Olympic medalist Alan van Koeverden by centimetres.

Support from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund has allowed Canoeing South Africa to send a large team to compete internationally, and the experience the younger paddlers will gain is invaluable for future success. Racing through the heats to places in the C-Final and B-Final are stepping-stones en route to achieving A-Final positions and future medals.

While the rest of the SA squad now heads home to prepare for the World Championships to be held in Poznan, Poland in August, Bridgette Hartley is the only squad member who is staying on to compete in the Duisberg World Cup in Germany next weekend.