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Hartley hits paydirt — at sea

By Mark Etheridge

Our top women’s sprint canoeist Bridgitte Hartley took to the sea to seek solace after a below-par performance at world sprint championships in Poland last month.

And she did so with aplomb, first placing third in a surf-ski race in Portugal and then winning the next day’s sprint race at the same venue.

The event was the Nelo Summer Challenge held around the town of Povoa de Varzim and it was all a novel experience for Hartley.

“The first race was a downwind surf-ski race of 10km. We started in a harbour and I won the hot spot prize for being the fastest girl to the lighthouse (about 800 metres) and I was third overall. I guess the hot spot prize was the one I was going for (1000 Euroes) as my downwind skills are almost non-existent as
I’ve only done two surfski races in my life and they were in a a double ski,” said Hartley.

The race was won by fellow South African Michele Eray from Australian Bernadette Walters.

The next day saw a sprint race where Hartley would feel a lot more comfortable with the distance. The race featured a Le Mans type start on the beach. “I just focused on getting on my boat quickly and the put in some good power strokes and found myself leading the pack. After I turned at the buoy I kept my position,” said Hartley.

“But there weren’t waves to catch on the way back in so it was hard. But I kept up my strong sprint and ran up the beach a bit slower because my legs were tired.”

Australia’s Lani Belcher was second and Eray, the previous day’s winner, third.

Some consolation from sprint world champs came from Hartley’s win in the Sunday event. “I was racing Rachel Cawthorn who got third place at World Championships in K1 (500m) and Teresa Portela (who was fourth in K1 500), so there were some girls who are faster than me at the moment!”

South Africa’s Jasper Mocke kept the South African flag flying by winning the men’s sprint event.

“It was such a great way to end off a big season of training and racing for SA on the sprint circuit,” says Hartley. “We then attended the biggest beach party I’ve ever seen, with over 50,000 people and Vanilla Ice performed live.”

Hartley certainly won’t be able to put her training on ice right now though. She’s been cleared to compete in the world marathon championships in Banyoles, Spain at the end of the month so will have to keep herself in trim for that event. “I’ll race the K1 race there, it’s 25 kilometres — six laps with five portages,” comfirmed Hartley.