Durban - The South African sprint canoeing team that took part in the recent ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Portugal return home buoyed by their achievements, highlighted by a bronze medal by sprint queen Bridgitte Hartley in the women's K1 1 000m.
The team selected consisted of paddlers with varying ranges of experience from Hartley, who has represented South Africa at three Olympic Games, to youngsters Kayla de Beer, David Rodrigues, Nicholas Weeks, Hamish Lovemore and Cameron Hudson, who were making their first senior world championship appearances.
With the likes of Esti van Tonder and Chrisjan Coetzee moving into the experienced paddler ranks they were both optimistic going into World Championships.
The pair did not disappoint and produced solid results going into the vital Olympic qualification cycle next year.
"Bridgitte (Hartleys)'s result was the stand out performance for the team definitely, but Esti (van Tonder) and Chrisjan (Coetzee) did extremely well to make it into the B finals," coach and manager Craig Mustard said.
"It's really tough to know that a top nine paddlers in the world are only a few seconds ahead of them and this is what we need to achieve next year to qualify for Tokyo.
"Both Chrisjan and Esti have progressed well and I believe that come Szeged next year we will be able to have more A Finals for Team South Africa."
It was an important learning curve for a number of the South African team who haven’t been exposed to that quality of competition for an extended period of time. The team boats, which took part in five events, registered one B Final but Mustard is hopeful that this can improve.
"Looking at the team boats section it is definitely the best route for (South Africa) to qualify for Tokyo," he said.
"I hope that we can see more K4 racing in South Africa in the next year so we can put together the best two boats we can at next year's Olympic qualifications at the world championships in Szeged," he stressed.
The K4 boat of Chrisjan Coetzee, Mike Arthur, Nick Weeks and David Rodrigues finished ninth in their semi-final and will have taken stock of the work needed going into the next twelve months.
There were a number of positive performances throughout the world championships with Under 23 Hamish Lovemore doing well in his first senior world championships, when he raced in the competitive men's K1 5 000m where he finished 12th.
Coetzee's second in the B Final of his 500m K1 was the next best result after Hartley's bronze medal and despite the strong performance he would have been disappointed not to qualify for the A Final, which he missed by the narrowest of margins.
Van Tonder showed consistency in her performances with two B Finals which included a 9th in the 200m K1 and a 5th in the 500m K1.
Lovemore and Hudson also showed some promise in their K2 when they finished in 7th in their K2 500m B Final, a result that impressed coach Mustard.
Their K2 1000m event ended in a 9th place finish in their semi-final, however with this event forming part of the Olympic Games in 2020 the pair will have a busy year if they are to qualify for the Tokyo Games.