Pitchford tackles Fish with young Brittany | SASCOC - SASCOC

Pitchford tackles Fish with young Brittany

Defending champion Hilary Pitchford, half of the victorious 2011 women’s combination, has opted to contest the women’s title at the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon on 27 and 28 September with young talent Brittany Petersen despite the pair having never paddled together ever before.

Having claimed victory two years ago with regular top women’s river marathoner Abby Adie, Pitchford, pictured far right, is looking forward to her new partnership with the determined and gutsy Petersen despite being behind on her training schedule.

ÔÇ£I’ve been training for a trail running race, which is two weeks after Fish, at the same time as training for Fish so it’s been a tough little period but everything seems to be on track,ÔÇØ said Pitchford.

ÔÇ£I wish I was a little fitter and a little stronger, for Brits’ sake, but I will be driving her down the river and she will be definitely be all the power! Having said that, I’m feeling great and I’m really excited to paddle Fish with Brits (Petersen) though!ÔÇØ she added.

For Petersen, her preparations have been somewhat of a mixed bag as well having switched between varsity work, sprinting and marathon training however the varsity College student believes she has all bases covered, particularly after a successful Pre Fish stint for the pair.

ÔÇ£I’ve been focusing on varsity and exams and on the paddling side of things I’ve been doing a bit of sprinting and took part in SA Marathon Champs too.

ÔÇ£I’d been doing base training for a while and then with SA Sprint Champs having taken place not too long ago I did a bit of speed work too so, even though before Pre Fish I hadn’t been on a river since Dusi, I’ve done bits and piece of pretty much everything recently and trying to keep training hard.

ÔÇ£We both didn’t have partners and eventually I spoke to Hilary a few weeks ago and she agreed to give things a go. We jumped in the boat together and it really has been great paddling together so far.

ÔÇ£We did Pre Fish together, which went well and gave us a good chance to see the river again. We didn’t push too hard and just looked to use it as tripping but all in all it went well.

ÔÇ£Hilary and I have never paddled together but she’s great in big water and we weren’t twitchy at all at Pre Fish so I’m feeling really good about Fish,ÔÇØ said Petersen.

Pitchford was also positive after their recent Cradock trip and highlighted the enjoyment of paddling together and Petersen’s ‘never-say-die’ attitude as key factors in the success of their partnership thus far.

ÔÇ£Pre Fish was excellent for us. We went to see the river and it was at an almost identical level to Fish so that was great and we were just so stable in the boat together,ÔÇØ said Pitchford.

ÔÇ£We also have such a lot of fun in the boat together and Brits is so keen and really positive so it’s great having her in the back,ÔÇØ she added.

With competition fort position in the women’s encounter likely to be a closely fought affair, particularly early on in the race, tactics surrounding the widely spoken about obstacle of the notorious Keith’s Flyover rapid may well have a bearing on how the women’s action unfolds on day one of the 82km, two day clash.

ÔÇ£The competition in the women’s race this year is great, it adds such hype and excitement coming into the race,ÔÇØ said Pitchford. ÔÇ£Even though a couple more girls are prepared to shoot Keith’s these days I think it is still a pretty important feature of the women’s race, especially this year because a lot of girls will be coming back from World Marathon Champs so the pace will be super-fast and any mistakes will be really costly.

ÔÇ£I make no secret of the fact that I hate that Keith’s portage so I’m definitely eyeing out shooting Keith’s.

ÔÇ£Hats off to Brits too. A lot of other girls wouldn’t even consider taking on Keith’s but she has such guts and is never scared of anything,ÔÇØ added the veteran with an unqualified tone of admiration.

The younger half of the combination, despite having come unstuck their previously, also seemed filled with confidence when it came to the possibility of shooting to testing rapid however she did add that a final decision would only be made once within the Eastern Cape’s borders.

ÔÇ£We didn’t shoot Keiths in Pre Fish because we were in our race boat and didn’t want to risk damaging it before Fish but Hilary is so confident through there and I’ve given it a go a couple of times before.

ÔÇ£It’s obviously pretty risky. If you shoot it and make it then you can make up quite a bit of time on those who portage so it’s all about weighing up the risk versus the reward.

ÔÇ£Hilary is great in big water but we’ll only make our final decision after tripping the river before Fish,ÔÇØ said Petersen.

Having only assembled a few weeks ago, the pair have enjoyed a less hyped-up build-up to the race than some of their fellow top pairings, something they have enjoyed and are hoping will count in their favour whilst sighting a minimalist’s approach to errors as another vital characteristic of a successful challenge.

ÔÇ£We know there’s obviously a lot of competition in the women’s race this year with Robyn (Kime) and Bridgette (Hartley), Michelle (Burn) and Danica (Bartho) as well as Jenna (Ward) and Kerry (Segal).

ÔÇ£It’s great to have been under the radar up until now. We’re looking to not put any pressure on ourselves but will obviously give our best. We’ll shoot everything we can and try make as few mistakes as possible,ÔÇØ said Petersen.

ÔÇ£I’m really hoping we can have a good race next weekend. A top three is always on the cards but, having never raced together before, I don’t want to put too have to high an expectation. We’ll just have to see how things go for us on the day but I’m really holding thumbs for a good one for us,ÔÇØ added an excited Pitchford.

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