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Paddlers prepare for a busy season in Olympic year
- Updated: January 21, 2016
The international canoe sprint season gets underway earlier than normal in 2016 due to the Olympic Games with the first World Cup events taking place towards the end of May with two World Cups being staged in the space of two weeks in Germany and Czech Republic respectively.
April will be a particularly busy month with the African Sprint Championships over the first weekend of the month and the ICF Canoe Marathon World Cup, which will be incorporating the African Marathon Championships, taking place at Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg the following weekend.
The second week of March will prove to be one of the most important weeks for many aspiring sprint paddlers with the South African Sprint Championships providing the only opportunity for paddlers to qualify for the African Championships and the international leg of the sprint season.
The first focus for the national sprint squad in 2016 will be the African Sprint Championships that will be held at Shongweni Dam in KwaZulu-Natal with the event set to attract the best sprint paddlers from around the continent, including some of South Africa’s young and up and coming stars.
The SASCOC Olympic qualification criteria stipulates that South African paddlers cannot qualify for the Olympic Games via their continental championships, justifying the selection of a younger, less experienced squad for the continental clash.
London Olympics gold medallist, Bridgitte Hartley (pictured above) has already qualified for the Rio Olympics. ’With entries to the African Sprint Championships closing this week, we have managed to get entries from 20 different nations,’ Secretary General of Canoeing South Africa, Colin Simpkins mentioned.
‘This is substantially higher than we had initially expected and is encouraging for us and the organisers of the event. We are expecting the Marathon World Cup to be a fairly low key event with it not taking place in Europe however we will only get a better idea of the numbers once the entries have closed.
‘We have a busy build-up to the 2017 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Pietermaritzburg which means that the African Champs is a good dress rehearsal for the organisers.
‘It will give them time to iron out any issues before we host the world’s best the following year,’ Simpkins, who is also the Canoeing South Africa Marathon Chairman, added.
Marathon paddling is historically a discipline that South African paddlers have excelled at.
Therefore, as usual, this year’s ICF World Marathon Championships in Germany in September will again be of utmost importance for many of the country’s top long distance paddlers.
South Africa managed to bag a gold, a silver and a bronze medal at the 2015 World Marathon Championships in Győr, Hungary and will hope that they can improve on that tally in 2016.
A strong showing on the international stage in 2016 could prove to be a significant confidence booster for the team as they prepare for the second ever Marathon World Championships to be hosted in South Africa in 2017.
Picture of Hartley courtesy of Balint Vekassy/Gameplan Media
2016 SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
11-13 March – South African Sprint Championships (Shongweni Dam, KZN)
22-24 March – SA Schools Sprint Championships (Shongweni Dam, KZN)
1-3 April – African Sprint Championships (Shongweni Dam, KZN)
17-19 May – Para World Championships (Germany)
20-22 May – World Cup No1 (Germany)
27-29 May – World Cup No2 (Czech Republic)
28-31 July – Under-23 and Junior World Championships (Belorussia)
15-20 August – Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games Sprint Programme
7-8 September – Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games Sprint Canoe Programme
8-10 April – ICF Canoe Marathon World Cup No1 and African Marathon Championships (Pietermaritzburg)
30-31 July – ICF Canoe Marathon World Cup No2 (Portugal)
14-18 September – ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships & ICF Masters World Cup (Germany)