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SA duo plan after Poznan

By Mark Etheridge

Sickness and scheduling played havoc with our Olympic canoe medal hopes Shaun Rubenstein and Mike Arthur’s World Sprint Championships in Poznan, Poland last week.

But the Cape Town based duo have refused to be scuppered by the disappointment and have made good use of their racing against the world’s best as they plot their way forward.

Rubenstein says the first problem suffered by the K2 crew was sickness. “Mike picked up a cold about a week before we started racing and didn’t train for the whole week before worlds. We both tried our best to remain positive and not dwell on the fact that he was fighting off sickness. Eventually the day before we started racing we decided that his resting heart rate was good, he wasn’t getting any worse, and that we should do a pre race training session and then try and race as best we could over the next three days.

“We went really well on the first day, the 500-metre heat and semi finals. We had a very tough semi and we raced probably the best 500m that we have raced this year to come in just behind the Hungarian world champions and German Olympic champions, holding off a number of very strong crews to qualify for the A-final.

“The following day was the 200m heats and semis. We made it through the heats very comfortably and then got drawn a really tough semi. We had the French (eventual winners) and the Latvians (fifth place finishers). We had a good race, we were neck and neck with the French in the lead by about the 100m mark but then didn’t seem to be able to hold their speed and they pulled away and we got passed by the Latvians to finish third,” said Rubenstein.

“The way the qualifications worked for the 200m, the crew finishing third with the fastest time out of all the semis would qualify for the A final. We unfortunately were pipped to the fastest time by the Cubans by 0.15sec. We were very disappointed about missing out on the 200m A final especially by so little. The following day was the 500m A final and the 200m B final.”

After Arthur’s sickness came the scheduling problems that finally sunk the South Africans. “The problem was that because we made the B final for the 200m it was only one hour after our 500m Final. We decided that our only shot at a medal was the 500m so we were going to go flat out and see if we could hold on. We went through half way in contention but completely died in the last 100m to come through in ninth.

“Having blown so badly in the 500m, we weren’t able to recover enough to put out a great effort in the 200m B final and had a fairly poor race.”

But Rubenstein is philosophical about the weekend’s racing. “Looking back, we were the only crew to race both the 500m and the 200m. All the other crews only raced the 200m. We decided at the beginning of the season that we wanted to race both so that we would develop as a combination by racing more, with two more years to the Olympics. We also seemed to struggle as the weekend of racing went on as Mike wasn’t recovering as quickly as usual since he had been sick and was still fighting the cold off during the competition.

“So as a whole the worlds were pretty disappointing for me because we were going really well and our preparations had gone brilliantly until the final week. I believe that the results we achieved were well below our potential which is frustrating since we put in a huge amount of effort into the season. We do still have a lot of positives to take out of the World Champs and the season so its not all gloomy. We have improved a lot as a combination and we know where we have to be to win medals. From next year we will only race 200m K2 as we specialise leading into the Olympics.”

The two now have a break for roughly three weeks before they start base training and focusing on working out any physical or technical weaknesses.

“Base training lasts to about January and then we start specific paddling training and our first race will only be in April next year at the SA championships. So for now its time to relax a bit and focus on all those minor details that make the one or two percent difference that we are looking for.”


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