Following a whirlwind six weeks for Bridgitte Hartley that included three international competitions on two continents, she is back in South Africa and hunting a first K2 crown at the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon with her partner under 23 star Christie Mackenzie from 27-28 September.
This year’s race will also double up as the national K2 river championships which will add some spice to an already well-seasoned affair with a number of women’s crews coming to the fore ahead of the 82 kilometre showdown next weekend.
Despite Hartley’s travels over the past six weeks she isn’t too concerned that she hasn’t been able to train with Mackenzie because she believes they are a combination that clicks well.
“Obviously you would want to spend as much time together as you can because the more you paddle together the better you get but Christie and I are a good team,” Hartley said.
“We don’t have to say too much because we are like-minded and we have raced a lot together in the past so I think that we will be fine when we get down to Cradock.
“We are going to do quite a bit of tripping before the race so that will give us a good amount of time for us to get the boat ready again.”
Hartley tasted success at the 2018 edition of the Hansa Fish, winning the K1 championship race, and realised that she has the ability to negotiate the tough weirs and rapids having come from a flat-water sprint background.
“I gained a lot of confidence from last year’s race,” the Euro Steel athlete mentioned. “I realised that even after a swim I have the ability to come back and I proved that after I swam at Soutpans and still managed to win.
“We don’t want to repeat that this year but with that knowledge I have a lot more belief in my ability going into this year’s race.”
Hartley has broken down both days of the Fish into sections and believes that there are a few crucial areas that need to be negotiated if you want to be successful.
“On day one I always think that the race only starts after Soutpans. There are some big rapids before that, and so after Soutpans you can reassess and the racing really kicks into gear.
“Day two is very much dependant on your position after day one, and determines whether you can be cautious through the first three quarters of the day or whether you have to go hard from the start.
“Day two’s obstacles are at the end so it is crucial that you have saved some concentration for Cradock Weir because it is so close to the finish.”
The K2 crown has eluded Hartley who has had to settle for second in the previous two K2 races at the Fish. The drive to be defending champion in both the K1 and K2 race is burning brightly.
“I would love to be the K2 champion and it’s something that I haven’t been able to nail down but Christie and I will take the race as it comes and see how we go from there.
“We are going to focus on the task at hand and let the result take care of itself,” she said philosophically.