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Hartley hooks up with new Brazilian coach ahead of Rio 2016
- Updated: November 3, 2015
South African Olympic medal hopeful, Bridgitte Hartley, met up with her new coach, Thiago Oliviera Borges, for the first time on the weekend at Natal Canoe Club in Pietermaritzburg.
In the 2012 London Olympics, Hartley, who receives Operation Excellence (OPEX) backing from the country’s Olympic governing body SASCOC and Canoeing South Africa, won a bronze medal in the women’s K1 500m canoe sprint event.
Oliviera Borges, from Brazil, is a former kayaker in both sprint and marathon, has a Masters degree with a focus on kayaking and sprint kayaking, and did his doctorate in Australia, where he also worked at the Australian Institute of Sport, with developing athletes through to elite performers.
His partnership with Hartley came about after he met International Canoe Federation official Alan Witherden, a South African, at the Rio Test event for next year’s Olympic Games. They began talking and, impressed by Oliveira Borges’ background, Witherden contacted Brett Austen Smith, the General Manager of Natal Canoe Club (NCC), where Hartley is a member.
After further interaction, Hartley decided to take on the Brazilian as her coach, just less than a year before the Rio Games.
‘Bridgitte is a fantastic athlete. She already has most of what is needed to be there and to be on the podium. My idea is to work on the details and to improve those areas where she is not as strong as she could be, to make her go one or two percent faster than she is actually going now. That would put her on the podium,’ Oliviera Borges said at Camps Drift, the home of NCC.
‘My idea is to be in touch with her twice or three times a week, even more, according to her availability. We are planning training camps. And I will send her all the work that must be done. But then, I will be with her as much as possible,’ he added.
As for Hartley: ‘I’m really excited, not only because I have recognised that I possibly don’t have another Olympics in me, but also because I know a new season has started, and the same as the year before London, I finished 10th in the World Championships, and I managed to come through with a really solid year of training, got my head down, and I came third,’ Hartley said.
While she was 10th at the World Championships this year in Milan, as recently as 2014, she won a bronze medal at the World Champs in Moscow.
‘I feel it is not over yet until I race that final race, so there is enough time now to change a few things in my training and to challenge myself from the beginning of the season to try for another medal,’ she explained.
Hartley said she was likely to spend a good deal of time in Brazil to prepare for the Rio Olympics. ‘It is just to understand what the environment will be like, and to work more with Thiago throughout the season, having camps in and around Brazil, just to get used to the environment. But I don’t think it is necessary to train on the Rio course.’