Johannesburg - Sprint world champs bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley has lived up to the hype as she made light work of the rest of the ladies field at the SA sprint championships at the Roodeplaat Dam in Johannesburg.
Hartley triumphed in some tricky conditions over the long Easter weekend, while her boyfriend and four times Dusi champ Andy Birkett stole much of the limelight in the senior men’s racing.
Although Hartley was dominant in all of her races (five gold, three silver), the Olympic bronze medallist was not entirely satisfied with her weekend and she felt that she was always battling against something and did not seem entirely comfortable throughout the championships.
"I am a little bit disappointed to be honest," Hartley said after the event.
"There were just a number of factors that kept me from being able to focus properly from the conditions to a number of delayed starts I wasn’t able to train my body into a routine before races which set me back a bit."
For Hartley making sure that she was on top of her game throughout was difficult and the sprint star battled to reach her full potential in her races however getting in some much needed racing time was important even though the conditions were not ideal for sprinting.
"The wind is something that you cannot control and it was a strange wind which made racing quite challenging and I really didn’t seem to feel better throughout I actually felt worse and worse but it was important that I got out there and got some racing under my belt.
"Something that I have taken out of the racing is that I still have a lot of hard work to do before I head off to Europe.
"This weekend made me realise that – which is probably a good thing!" she added.
Although the Championships did not quite go as well as Hartley was hoping for she is still in good shape heading into the international season and with such an important season coming up she feels a significant amount of pressure on her shoulders with the Rio De Janeiro Olympics looming in the distance.
"This is going to be a defining year for me because of the pressure of Olympic qualification and the challenges of this season are going to be different due to the fact that I have to end in the top eight in the world if I want to compete at the Olympics!
"There is a lot of hard work to be done but I know that and I am really looking forward to what the season has in store for me," she mentioned.
Dusi Canoe Marathon winner Andy Birkett surprised the sprint community when he came away with a string of gold medals at the national championships and the 'marathoner' decided during the weekend that he would take on a few more races than he initially expected and it worked out for him.
"I actually only planned to race the 1000m K1 and 5000 long distance race as part of my marathon training," admitted Birkett.
"One thing lead to another and I did more and more races and got some good results.
"I am pleased with the improvements in my technique, which is something that I have been working on with Craig Mustard," he added.
The first day’s 1000m racing had perfect weather conditions calm, with no wind and the Singapore team participated enthusiastically however it was Andy Birkett who won the men’s race, although he and partner Bryan le Roux were disqualified for an underweight boat in the K2 event, where Dewald and Louis Hattingh won the gold.
Birkett continued to assert himself at the event, showing encouraging sprint form as he prepares for the mid-year flatwater marathon season, winning the men’s 500m K1 gold from NCC team mate Louis Hattingh and UCT Racer Ben Biggs.
Corneli Lemmer with Njabulo Tshabalala won the first ever C2 women’s race in South Africa while Jonathan Wing took gold in the Men’s para canoe first ever event followed by Graham Paull.
Esti van Tonder and Tiffany Kruger won the ladies K2 followed by Bridgette Hartley and Haley Arthur.
The third day of racing once again experienced perfect sprint racing conditions with very very fast and close competitive races and finishes with Bridgette Hartley taking gold in the 200m followed by Esti van Tonder.
Chrisjan Coetzee won the men’s race and Donna Hatting best last year’s winner Kayla de Beer to take the girls Under 18 gold medal.
The Men’s K4 race was also very competitive with Calven Clack, Benjamin Biggs, Brent Chizzari and Gene Prato taking the gold while the younger paddlers Eduan Dippenaar, Nicholas weeks, Lolo Fick and Gabriel van Wyk gave them a good run for their gold, finishing close behind to take silver.
The 2015 SA sprint champs made history as they became the first SA champs to host both C1 and C2 races as well as the first South African sprint champs to host para canoeing which is an indication of the increasing popularity of the discipline.
200m K1 Finals
1. Chrisjan Coetzee 00:36.22
2. Calven Clack 00:37.25
3. Frans Smit 00:37.52
1. Bridgitte Hartley 00:43.76
2. Esti van Tonder 00:44.06
3. Tiffany Kruger 00:45.49
1. Andreas Beukes 00:39.80
2. Jarryd Gibson 00:40.03
3. Ryno van der Westhuyzen 00:40.12
1. Donna Hutton 00:44.39
2. Kayla de Beer 00:44.92
3. Nicole Smith 00:48.33
Men Para Final
1. Jono Wing 00:46.54
2. Graham Paull 00:56.03
3. Constant Olivier 01:00.01
200m K2 Finals
1.Antony Collopy/Chrisjan Coetzee 00:33.96
2.Benjamin Biggs/Frans Smit 00:34.94
3.Andy Birkett/Bryan Le Roux 00:35.09
1.Tiffany Kruger/ Esti Van Tonder 00:40.74
2.Bridgitte Hartley/Hayley Arthur 00:41.32
3.Brittany Petersen/ Melanie Van Niekerek 00:41.59
1.Thabanimtolo Msiya/Nkosi Msawe 00:40.08
2.Brett Evans/Jarryd Gibson 00:40.24
3.Andreas Beukes/ Ryno Van Der Westhuyzen 00:40.58
500m K1 Finals
1.Andy Birkett 01:44.39
2.Louis Hattingh 01:45.71
3.Ben Biggs 01:47.20
1.Bridgitte Hartley 01:57.14
2.Esti van Tonder 02:00.72
3.Tiffany Kruger 02:01.63
1.Jarryd Gibson 01:51.51
2.Alex Masina 01:53.81
3.Andreas Beukes 01:54.00
1.Donna Hutton 02:08.43
2.Kayla de Beer 02:11.22
3.Nicole Smith 02:22.88
500m K2 Finals
1.Bryan Leroux/Andy Brikett 01:39.34
2.Alasdair Glass/Ben Biggs 01:40.22
3.Dewald Hattingh/Louis Hattingh 01:42.59
1.Tiffany Kruger/Esti van Tonder 01:51.52
2.Bridgitte Hartley/Hayley Arthur 01:53.53
3.Birttany Petersen/Melanie van Niekerk 01:56.72
1.Thabani Msiya/Msawenkosi Mtolo 01:46.82
2.Brett Evans/Jarryd Gibson 01:50.17
3.Ryno van der Westhuyzen/Andreas Beukes 01:51.03
1000m K1 Finals
1.Andy Birkett 03:42.37
2.Louis Hattingh 03:47.21
3.Alasdair Glass 03:52.77
1.Bridgitte Hartley 04:16.49
2.Stephanie Chen (singapore) 04:25.88
3.Kerry Segal 04:29.38
1.Jarryd Gibson 03:58.33
2.Ryno van der Westhuyzen 03:59.08
3.Alex Masina 04:06.80
1.Donna Hutton 04:38.79
2.Nicole Smith 05:01.60
3.Sneziwe Gxobole 05:56.31
1000m K2 Finals
1.Dewald Hattingh/Louis Hattingh 03:23.18
2.Alasdair Glass/Alasdair Collopy 03:29.87
3.Bill Lee/Brandon Ooi (Singapore) 03:36.69
1.Esti van Tonder/Tiffany Kruger 03:52.57
2.Bridgitte Hartley/Hayley Arthur 03:55.55
3.Donna Hutton/Kerry Segal 04:03.03
1.Brett Evans/Jarryd Gibson 03:46.68
2.Thabani Msiya/Msawenkosi Mtolo 03:46.75
3.Ryno van der Westhuyzen/Andreas Beukes 03:47.54
5000m K1 Finals
1.Andy Birkett 23:40.30
2.Louis Hattingh 23:43.38
3.Alasdair Glass 23:56.75
1.Bridgitte Hartley 25:41.91
2.Kerry Segal 25:43.18
3.Hayley Arthur 26:44.39
1.Siyabonga Tyiki 24:15.17
2.Thomas Lovemore 24:18.15
3.Ryno van der Westhuyzen 24:19.83
5000m K2 Finals
1.Andy Birkett/Louis Hattingh 22:43.94
2.Alasdair Glass/Ben Biggs 22:45.48
3.Gene Prato/Brent Chiazzari 22:48.65
1.Bridgitte Hartley/Donna Hutton 24:33.30
2.Kerry Segal/Julia Trodd 24:33.98
3.Brittany Petersen/Melanie van Niekerk 24:34.73
1.Thabani Msiya/Msawenkosi Mtolo 23:43.20
2.Thomas Lovemore/Jono Wing 23:44.35
3.Siyabonga Tyiki/Sibusiso Chwayi 23:44.70