Durban – 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley has not ruled out finishing on the 2016 Olympic podium as she adds the final touches to her preparations for the K1 Women’s 500m canoe sprint event at the global showpiece in Rio de Janeiro in a few weeks’ time.
The sprint events begin at the picturesque Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas on Monday 15 August with Hartley in action on 17 and 18 August with a schedule that sees the paddlers having to overcome a quick turn-around time between heats and semi-finals on Wednesday before the final takes place on Thursday.
After producing one disappointing result and then a more positive one in the two international events she took part in during the ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup season, the 33-year old star placed great emphasis on working on her technique in the build-up to the Games.
“I have been working on many aspects during my training sessions to help fix my boat run and technique as well as slowly adding components to improve the way my body is moving in order for me to get the best out of every stroke,” the sprint ace mentioned recently.
“There have been some challenging sessions but I am continually trying to get my training sessions as close to perfect as possible because I need to make every stroke count when I am competing in Rio!”
Since qualifying for the Olympics in June, Hartley’s regime has shifted towards ensuring she is fully race ready when she gets on the water for her 500m heat next month and she is confident that she will be as prepared as she will need to be come race day.
“I am sure I will peak at the right time - I am not ready to race just yet but I am quietly confident that I will be ready come competition time in August.
“I am currently at a training camp in São Paulo and then we will take the short flight to Rio de Janeiro.
“I won’t be doing any racing between now and the Games but I am slowly starting to get more excited to race,” she added.
Hartley goes into this year’s Olympic Games in much the same position that she was in ahead of the London Olympics – a podium outsider.
The bubbly South African sprinter is however relishing the opportunity to get onto the water in Rio and prove that her bronze in 2012 was not a once-off achievement.
“I haven’t been pinned as a medal winner by the media in South Africa, which I think means that I go into the Games as a bit of an underdog.
“I have won a medal before and I know that I have what it takes to do well and win a medal again,” she declared.
As comparisons are made between her build up to 2012 and this year’s Games, the former medal winner understands the pressures and requirements that come with the prestigious event.
"I am more critical of everything now than I was before London. I am trying to always improve and I get frustrated when I have a bad training session.
"Before London I was surrounded by a small training group, so I was never as critical of every session as I am now.
"I am paddling well but still feel like I can improve before the Olympics,” a determined Hartley explained.
The pressure of only having three occasions to perform at the Olympics and get onto the podium is not something that Hartley has ignored and she hopes that harnessing her London experience will give her the boost she needs during competition.
“I am just going into the Games to race three perfect races – that’s what I am going to have to do to win.
“I can't rely on my previous result but it does give me a bit of confidence.
“I tell myself that I have done it before so there is no reason why I can't try and do it again,” a positive Hartley added.