Freshly back in South Africa and buoyed by her K2 Women’s silver medal feat at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Brandenburg, Germany, Jenna Ward is eager to take that confidence into the 2016 Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon on 7 and 8 October and clinch another women’s podium place.
Having clinched the bronze medal in the K1 U23 Women’s event at World Champs in 2014 and 2015, the Durban based star had hoped to finish one step, if not two, higher on the podium going into the highly anticipated clash in Germany.
Despite a brave fight, Ward narrowly missed out on a K1 medal though, finishing fourth overall, but refocused her energies on her K2 assault with Euro Steel team mate and junior sensation Kyeta Purchase, a race that they finished second in behind marathon legend Renáta Csay and her Hungarian partner, Alexandra Bara.
“Our K2 race at Worlds is definitely the highlight of my career so far,” describes Ward.
“It was the race of both Kyeta and my life and a moment I will never ever forget.
“Just last year I had a photo taken with Renáta and suddenly this year there we were, competing side-by-side with her and only losing out in the end sprint; it was absolutely incredible!” she adds.
Back on familiar turf though, the Hansa Fish is the next assignment looming large on Ward’s horizon.
Having notched up two third place finishes (2013 and 2014) and three fourths (2011, 2012, 2015) at the past five Hansa Fish encounters, the talented MACSquad member is eager to again challenge for a place on the podium in 2016.
“I’ve got to get back into my river boat again now ahead of Fish and try make the adjustment back into river racing as quickly as possible.
“Although Fish is also such a great, fun race, I’m definitely going there to give it my all.
“Hopefully I can stay in my boat and push hard to at least finish on the podium,” says Ward.
Despite four-time race winner Abby Solms (Euro Steel/Gara Racing Paddles) admitting she has not spent quite as much time in the boat this year as she normally does in the build up to Fish, Ward believes the standout paddler in women’s canoeing in South Africa for the past three years to be a force to be reckoned with once more.
Ward also expects a stellar women’s field to take this year’s Fish’s start line however the Under-23 talent hopes to use both the confidence she gained from her recent Worlds feat and her characteristically consistent approach to her advantage.
“I’m the strongest I’ve ever been and our K2 race in Germany has definitely given both Kyeta and I some great confidence going forward.
“I think a big contributing factor to my consistency has been the group of girls we’ve got training together at our MACSquad at Blue Lagoon and all the guidance we receive from Lee and Hank McGregor.
“Fish this year is definitely going to be another really tough race, especially with so many girls rumoured to be competing this year
“That’s great though – you’d rather finish eighth in a race that all the top girls in the country were at than win a race that no one else competed in!”
The 2016 Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon takes place from Grassridge Dam to Cradock Sports Complex on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 October.