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- Blitzboks bag three wins in Dubai
- International honours for Olympic coach Barrow
- Hall of Fame honours for SA legend Sally Little
- Blitzboks off to a great start with Ugandan whitewash
- Banyana going all out to bag bronze in Cameroon
- Powell opts for experience at Dubai Sevens
- First IGT Tour win for Arnoldi at Centurion
Brave Bridgitte captures Olympic canoe bronze for SA
- Updated: August 9, 2012
By Mark Etheridge┬áin London
Sprint canoeist Bridgitte Hartley flew the flag for every South African woman as she powered to an Olympic bronze medal on Women’s Day on Thursday morning.
She ended third behind Hungary’s Danuta Kozak and Ukraine’s Inna Osypenko-Radomska. Her time for the 500m K1 at Eton Dorney Lake was 1min 52.923sec with the gold and silver medallist clocking 1:51.546 and 1:52.685 respectively.
Team South Africa have now fought their way to five medals at this Olympics ÔÇô three swimming (two gold, one silver), one rowing (gold) and now Hartley’s heroic bronze. That equals their haul in Sydney 2000 but the two golds mean the 2012 Games are rated higher in terms of standing.
Tears flowed freely for the Richard’s Bay athlete who sported a South African flag design on one of her fingernails.
Her voice cracked with emotion and her body shook like a reed in KwaZulu-Natal storm. “Absolutely amazing, absolutely amazing,” she repeated as her head shook from side to side in disbelief.
“I didn’t panic when the other girls got away in the beginning because I know I have a strong end effort so I just stayed focused on counting my strokes.
Hartley also competed in the Beijing Olympics where she reached the semi-final in the K2 event.
“I had nothing to lose and just gave it my everything. I was hurting at the end, really bad but I didn’t know where I was. The wait was agonising. I looked up to see if I got a medal, heard the Hungarians screaming, then saw Ukraine then SA!
“But I couldn’t celebrate in case they changed it but it just stayed there…” And the tears started flowing again.
“This is just the most amazing day for me. My parents are here to see me. My father lives on a farm in Oudtshoorn and this was the first time he has left the African continent and he watched me… amazing!”
Asked whether she’ll push on to Rio and the 2016 Games she said: “Why not, a lot of the finalists and medal-winners in Beijing were 32 or older and I’m only 29.”
Team SA management wore smiles longer than the length of the artificial Eton Dorney lake. But these smiles were not artificial, they were the real deal.
Said Chef de Mission, Patience Shikwambana: “What a start to Women’s Day back in South Africa. We also have Caster Semenya in the 800m track semi-finals later today as well as Sunette Viljoen in the javelin final.
“This could be one of the finest days for women’s sport in South Africa!”
By the end of Thursday, she may just be proved right.