This weekend’s Pre-Fish canoe race will give sprint sensation Bridgitte Hartley vital K1 river marathon experience ahead of her challenge for a podium place at the 2016 Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon on 7 and 8 October.
Making a welcome return to the South African river marathon scene after her 2016 Olympic Games endeavours, Hartley hopes this weekend’s Eastern Cape race will help her reacquaint herself with her river kayak ahead of the Hansa Fish proper in two weekends’ time.
“The Pre-Fish will be great for me as it will give me a chance to test my river skills again before this year’s Fish,” explains Knysna Racing’s Hartley.
The popular pre-Fish offers paddlers the opportunity to race the same course as the Hansa Fish, with the added bonus of the same 26 cumec water release that the big race guarantees every year.
“My river skills certainly aren’t the worst, but they’re not the best either so I think this weekend will be really good for me.
“I’ve never done the Pre-Fish before so this weekend is far more about gaining as much experience as possible rather than the result,” she adds.
Having competed at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, Hartley has spent much of her paddling career focused on her sprint pursuits.
A recent change of mindset and desire to enjoy a few more facets of canoeing has seen the 33 year-old commit to a host of river marathon events, including the much-anticipated 2016 Hansa Fish.
“I’m really excited to race this year’s Fish!” she says. “It’s always such a fun weekend and the women’s level this year is going to be incredible!
“Hopefully things can go well for me at Pre-Fish this weekend and I can get my confidence in the river up a bit a bit before Fish.
After making a return to the river at last year’s Hansa Fish where she finished second with K2 partner Michelle Burn behind Abby Solms (Euro Steel/Gara Racing Paddles) and Anna Kožíšková, Hartley is now eager to repeat her podium efforts again in 2016.
“I have done a few Fish before, so I have some experience, but they’ve mainly been in K2s and once or twice in a K3 so in my head I still call myself a Fish novice.
“With this year being a K1 championship year, it is a big step up from the K2 and K3 Fish I’ve done before.
“I’d love to podium at this year’s Fish though and if I could win then that would be amazing, but that’s probably just my competitiveness from sprints coming out,” the bubbly, likeable athlete laughs.
The 2016 Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon takes place from Grassridge Dam to Cradock Sports Complex on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 October.