Cele, Ngidi's learning curve | SASCOC - SASCOC

Cele, Ngidi’s learning curve

Our leading C2 slalom paddlers Master Cele and Cyprian Ngidi have returned from an encouraging showing on the wild waters of Europe.

The duo have just spent around six weeks on the European circuit where they competed at three International Canoeing Federation (ICF) slalom races as well as the opening World Cup.

While both paddlers have the experience of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing under their belts, they find local competition hard to come by in their hometown of Bethlehem, Free State.

But thanks to funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund they are now able to travel on the tough European summer circuit against the best slalom protagonists in the world and they are thriving on being able to tackle the big guns.

The first of the three ICF races was held in Tacen, Slovenia, and Cele and Ngidi immediately realised that the standard was a step up from their usual racing. They made it through to the semi-final stage but no further. Still, considering this was their first international race in a C2 together, it was a solid showing that buoyed their spirits and laid a foundation that they could build from.

At the Beijing Olympics, Ngidi partnered Cameron McIntosh in the C2, while Cele had competed in the K1 category in Beijing.

The second of the ICF races, in L’argenti├¿re la Bess├®, France, saw a much improved performance from the pair as they made it all the way through to the Finals, where they finished in eighth position overall. The third and final ICF race also took place in France, this time in Bourg Saint Maurice, and again saw an improved performance, prompting coach Jean Jerome Perrin to label the pair’s semi-final as ÔÇ£one of the best runs they have had in Europe.ÔÇØ It was good enough to get them through to the final, where they finished in a respectable eighth place amongst some world-class competitors.

The fourth race of their European journey was also the biggest – the first ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup held in Prague. Sadly, Cele and Ngidi found the artificial slalom course would be their downfall once again. The pair are used to the natural flow of their home training course on the Ash River and battle on the rapids and eddies that artificial structures create.

After being penalised 60 seconds, Cele and Ngidi placed 30th in their heat and failed to progress to the semi-final stage as Slovakian superstar brothers Peter and Pavel Hochschorner dominated the C2 heats and semi-finals. Surprisingly they came undone in the final and placed second to the Chinese pair of Minghai Hu and Junrong Shu.

Perrin was forthright in his view of the South African’s showing in the first World Cup. ÔÇ£Master and Cyprian struggle to adapt their technique to the artificial course, and perform much better on natural courses such as their training grounds in Bethlehem.ÔÇØ Although Cele and Ngidi have worked hard to improve their performance on the artificial course in the last two months, Perrin says it is not yet enough.

The next two Slalom World Cups will be held in Spain from 25-27 June, and Germany from 2-4 July.