Tomorrow during the South African Sprint Canoeing Championships at Roodeplaatdam it will be a case of mentor versus mentee when the top female paddlers take to the water to compete in the K1-event over 200 metres.
After winning a bronze medal over 500m at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Bridgitte Hartley was concerned about how few female sprint canoeists there were in South Africa, so she took it upon herself to canvass for new talent at schools in and around Pietermaritzburg.
The 15-year old Kayla de Beer was at the time playing provincial hockey as well as being an avid waterpolo player, but Hartley’s passion for sprint canoeing got her interested in trying something new.
“I was the only one of my school who decided to attend Bridgitte’s sprint canoeing clinic. Off the bat, I was good at it. Six months later I represented South Africa at the African Championships. The next year I was selected for the World Junior Championships.
“A definite highlight was being part of a South African women’s K4-crew who competed at two World Cup races and the World Senior Championships,” said De Beer who has become a fixture in the national teams.
“The most important thing I have learned from Bridgitte is that for me to succeed as a sprint canoeist will be all about perseverance and discipline.”
Hartley who will be 35 in July indicated that she would be competing in the 200m as well as the 500m sprints at the national championships. De Beer who is studying at Tuks favours the 200m.
“It is going to be an exciting race. I certainly won’t underestimate Bridgitte as I don’t think she has slowed down at all in spite of her age. She certainly has an advantage when it comes to race experience,” said De Beer who just turned 21.
Esti van Tonder is apparently the other canoeist who will be in contention in the 200m race. She and De Beer are training partners.
The Tuks canoeist admits that she has never beaten Van Tonder in a race, but last week they were involved in a titanic struggle during a time trial. De Beer does not want to say what the outcome was only stating that it was close.
There is a lot at stake. The top two in the 200m race will get to represent South Africa at the World Cups in the K1-events. Because De Beer is still under-23, it will be a race within a race. The national under-23 title is also at stake in the same race. Donna Hudson is a definite contender for the title.
At the end of May De Beer and Van Tonder will team up to compete in the K2-event over 500m at World Cups in Hungary and then Germany.