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Hartley still walking on air after medal
- Updated: August 10, 2012
By Gary Lemke in London
Bridgitte Hartley faced the South African media a day after winning a historic Olympic and the tears almost started flowing again, underlining what such an achievement meant to her.
The 29-year-old said she was ÔÇ£pretty speechlessÔÇØ when seeing the South African flag being hoisted at the victory ceremony, after finishing third in the Women’s K1 Sprint on Thursday.┬á ÔÇ£I was filled with emotion, it was the most amazing thing,ÔÇØ she said, 24 hours after becoming the country’s first canoeist to win an Olympic medal.
And the first woman to win a medal for South Africa at 2012. On Women’s Day. ÔÇ£To be honest, when I woke up yesterday I didn’t even know what day of the week it was. I switched off my phone and I didn’t look at any of the social networks or media because I wanted to concentrate on my race. Only afterwards, when people said, ‘you’ve won a medal on Women’s Day’, did I say, ‘oh yes, great’!ÔÇØ
Hartley was a shrewd tip to win a medal and had certainly arrived in London in great shape after spending the last four years working hard with coach Nandor Almasi.
ÔÇ£I don’t remember the last couple of metres, to be honest. I thought I might get a medal if I could go for it. My coach told me I was in good shape but he stopped short of saying I would get a medal, but maybe that’s what he was thinking.ÔÇØ
Still only 29, Hartley believes she has another Olympics in her and Almasi himself declared that there is no reason why she cannot be a real contender to win 500m sprint gold in Rio. ÔÇ£And she can also compete in the 200m sprint there as well.ÔÇØ
Hartley spent over two hours with the media, and pointed out proudly that she had inspected her medal. ÔÇ£And if you look at the bottom of it ÔÇô the part people don’t normally see ÔÇô you can see that they have engraved the race in which it was awarded.ÔÇØ
She plans to take some time off to recharge her batteries before thinking of competition again. ÔÇ£I’ll be going back to South Africa and I hear there’s a big welcome planned for us. From there I’ll be flying back to Portugal for a gathering of all Olympic finalists and medallists and spend some time there and then I’m going to go visit my brother who I haven’t seen in quite a while. He lives in the Caribbean and is going on holiday to Miami so I think I’m going to join him.ÔÇØ
Hartley, who was given heartfelt congratulations by the president of SASCOC, Gideon Sam, as well as the deputy minister of Sport and Recreation, Gert Oosthuizen, was asked whether or not her success would inspire youngsters to follow her and take up canoeing.
ÔÇ£I’m not sure. We don’t have the coaches and we need the coaches (for sprint kayaking). We have river paddlers and dam paddlers but not so many people compete in the sprinting. But that’s the route to go if you want to compete at this level, at the Olympics.ÔÇØ